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Cop Land is a 1997 American drama film written and directed by James Mangold with an ensemble cast featuring Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, and Michael Rapaport.


The film takes place in the fictional city of Garrison, New Jerseymarker, located across the Hudson River from New Yorkmarker near the George Washington Bridgemarker where a large number of residents are New York City Police Department officers. Stallone plays the quiet Freddy Heflin, the hearing-impaired sheriff of Garrison who admires his friends who are cops. Heflin had wanted to join the NYPD, but was rejected due to his injury. Although nominally the sheriff, Freddy's actual authority is limited to handling minor civil issues.

The real power in town belongs to the corrupt NYPD cops, primarily Ray Donlan (Keitel), who constantly reminds Heflin that he is only a local sheriff and is not really one of them. Consequently, Heflin spends most of his days listening to his vinyl records and longing for his high school sweetheart (Annabella Sciorra), whom he saved from drowning at the cost of his hearing and who dumped him for a dysfunctional marriage with another cop, Joey Randone (Peter Berg). Matters are further complicated by 'Figgsy' (Liotta), another corrupt NYPD officer who is a friend of Heflin's. Figgsy also has an ongoing rift with Randone, and is convinced his former partner was killed before he talked to Internal Affairs about Donlan and his group.

Starting the action off, Murray 'Superboy' Babitch (Michael Rapaport), Donlan's nephew, gets sideswiped on George Washington Bridgemarker by a couple of African American teens. Thinking that they had fired a gun at him (one of the teens had in fact raised a steering wheel-lock in a gun-like manner as Babitch's tire burst), he returns fire and they are killed in an ensuing crash. Worried about a possible racial incident, Donlan decides the best solution is to fake Babitch's death by suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. When another corrupt cop is caught red-handed trying to plant a weapon on one of the deceased motorists to justify the shooting, their fellow corrupt cops (Harvey Keitel, Robert Patrick, John Spencer and Arthur J. Nascarella) fear Babitch will testify to internal affairs about police corruption.

De Niro plays Lt. Moe Tilden, an NYPD internal affairs officer investigating Mafia connected corruption amongst the officers living in Garrison. His jurisdiction ends at the George Washington Bridge, but the men he watches live across that bridge. Smelling a coverup in Babitch's "death", Tilden asks Heflin to provide internal affairs with information on the corrupt cops. Even though they are corrupt and work in a different city, Heflin views them as allies and brothers, able to accomplish what he could not. His reluctance to betray his friends derails the investigation.

Although the cover up at first seems successful, Donlan is told by his PDA President Vincent Lassaro that without a body, the case will not stay dead. Donlan decides that Babitch should be killed. However, they botch the job and in doing so reveal to Heflin that Babitch is actually alive. Heflin is forced to confront the truth about his childhood friends and try to bring them to justice. When he realizes his error he returns to Tilden seeking help, but Tilden rejects his plea, having been forced to completely close the entire investigation by city officials and bureaucrats wishing to avoid bad publicity about the department, as well as the lack of progress in the case due to Heflin's hesitation in helping. Heflin steals several NYPD files on the cases when he is leaving the office. He goes back to his office to look at the files, and realizes the men he knows are all connected to corruption. He returns home to find Figgsy packing to leave, and admonishes him for abandoning him.

Returning to work, Heflin recognizes a man in one of the old case files, and realizes that it is an officer and a friend of Donlan, who works in the prison where Figgsy's partner was killed. The case is Figgsy's partner's murder, which clearly implicates Donlan. Heflin further sees an article claiming that narcotics arrests are down at the precinct where the Garrison cops work at, the 37th precinct. The 37th precinct according to the article has a reputation for violent crime and drug trafficking with local residents alleging that the drug traffic has not stopped, rather that the 3-7's officers turn a blind eye to the drug trade. Heflin deduces that the 3-7's officers have been paid off by the mob to let millions of dollars in drugs run through their precinct. Heflin reviews the mortgage forms for each of the officers living in Garrison and find that all of them come from the same bank, Hudson Federal Savings and Loan. Hudson Federal Savings and Loan is shown to have been investigated on numerous occasions on suspicion of being a mob bank due to its connection with mob boss Toy Torillo and is responsible for 93% of the home loans in Garrison.

Realizing that Figgsy was right about Garrison being a town owned by the mafia, Heflin tells his deputies about his discovery. They react with alarm at the extra-legal sources (stealing case files) on which his ad-hoc investigation is based. Deputy Cindy Betts (Janeane Garofalo) tells Heflin she is leaving the department, due to the criminality on all sides. Heflin goes back to Figgsy's house to see if it was a coverup when Figgsy arrives. Figgsy admits that he burned his house down on purpose, but that Monica was not home and the reason it did not look like arson was that he was helped by a bomb squad officer (Edie Falco).

Following up on the leads he talks to Rose Donlan (Cathy Moriarty) who gives him Babitch's location. Heflin finds Babitch and takes him to jail, where his second deputy (Noah Emmerich) abandons him in fear that the corrupt cops will come to take Babitch by force. Now alone, Heflin attempts to take Babitch to New York to turn in to Tilden, but is ambushed by Donlan and the other corrupt cops, who take Babitch and temporarily deafen Heflin's good ear before leaving him at the station in pain.

The film's climax involves Heflin staggering through Garrison, injured and now totally deaf, knowing they've taken Babitch to Donlan's house. A shootout follows, and Heflin is shot in the back of his shoulder and is saved from potential death when Figgsy arrives, having had a change of heart. The two gradually kill all of the corrupt cops in the house and recover Babitch. They successfully take him to New York, where Tilden accepts Babitch into custody, giving Heflin all of the credit for bringing him in. The film ends with Heflin overlooking the city of New York from across the river with news crews reporting that several indictments have been handed down to mob members, the officers in Garrison, and the PDA all being investigated for their various connections.


Actor Role
Sylvester Stallone Sheriff Freddy Heflin
Harvey Keitel Lt. Ray Donlan
Ray Liotta Officer Gary "Figgsy" Figgis
Robert De Niro Lt. Moe Tilden
Peter Berg Officer Joey Randone
Janeane Garofalo Deputy Cindy Betts
Robert Patrick Officer Jack Rucker
Michael Rapaport Officer Murray "Superboy" Babitch
Annabella Sciorra Liz Randone
Noah Emmerich Deputy Bill Geisler
Cathy Moriarty Rose Donlan
John Spencer Det. Leo Crasky
Frank Vincent PDA President Vincent Lassaro
Malik Yoba Det. Carson
Arthur J. Nascarella Det. Frank LaGunda
Edie Falco Berta
Victor Williams Russell
Paul Calderon Hector the Medic
Tony Sirico Tony "Toy" Torillo (photo only)
Method Man Shondel


De Niro and Keitel had worked together on three previous films, Mean Streets in 1973, Taxi Driver in 1976 and Falling in Love in 1984. Due to the film's modest budget, all of the actors worked for scale. The entire main cast (with the exception of Robert Patrick), and most of the supporting cast and extras, were born or raised in New York Citymarker or the New York metropolitan areamarker. Numerous supporting actors in Cop Land would later appear in The Sopranos, including Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Frank Vincent, Robert Patrick, Frank Pellegrino, John Ventimiglia, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bruce Altman, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Herman and Tony Sirico.

Two melancholy songs from Bruce Springsteen's 1980 album The River, "Drive All Night" and "Stolen Car", along with an effective Howard Shore score, help set the atmosphere.


Cop Land had its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York Citymarker on August 6, 1997. Some of the film's cast members attended, including Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Annabella Sciorra, Cathy Moriarty, and Michael Rapaport.

Stallone's understated performance against type—he gained considerable weight for the role—was praised by critics and he received the Best Actor award at the Stockholm International Film Festival. Cop Land was also screened at the 54th Venice Film Festival in the Midnight line-up. The film was accepted into the main competition at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker, but Miramax declined the invitation due to reshoots that were need for the film, including footage of Stallone 40 pounds heavier.

Critical reaction was generally positive. Based on 59 reviews collected from notable publications by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an overall approval rating of 71%. Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "There is a rough balance between how long a movie is, how deep it goes, and how much it can achieve. That balance is not found in Cop Land, and the result is too much movie for the running time". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin felt that "the strength of Cop Land is in its hard-edged, novelistic portraits, which pile up furiously during the film's dynamic opening scenes ... Yet if the price of Mangold's casting ambitions is a story that can't, finally, match its marquee value, that value is still inordinately strong. Everywhere the camera turns in this tense and volatile drama, it finds enough interest for a truckload of conventional Hollywood fare. Whatever its limitations, Cop Land has talent to burn". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Stallone does a solid, occasionally winning job of going through the motions of shedding his stardom, but the wattage of his personality is turned way down—at times, it's turned down to neutral. And that pretty much describes Cop Land, too. Dense, meandering, ambitious yet jarringly pulpy, this tale of big-city corruption in small-town America has competence without mood or power—a design but not a vision". In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote, "With its redundancy of supporting characters, snarled subplots and poky pace, Cop Land really might have been better off trading the director for a traffic cop". Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers praised Stallone's performance: "His performance builds slowly but achieves a stunning payoff when Freddy decides to clean up his town ... Freddy awakes to his own potential, and it's exhilarating to watch the character and the actor revive in unison. Nearly down for the count in the movie ring, Stallone isn't just back in the fight. He's a winner". In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle also liked Stallone's work: "His transformation is more than a matter of weight. He looks spiritually beaten and terribly sad. He looks like a real person, not a cult-of-the-body film star, and he uses the opportunity to deliver his best performance in years".

Home video

Cop Land: Director's Cut was released to DVD in June 2004. Features include the original 112-minute cut, restoration of deleted scenes and scenes extended, addition of New York band Blue Öyster Cult's "Burnin' for You" to the soundtrack, and a new audio commentary with James Mangold, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Patrick and producer Cathy Konrad. Also included are a "Shootout Storyboard Sequence" and "The Making of an Urban Western" documentary.

On the DVD, there are two deleted scenes that primarily show the racism in the town of Garrison. One scene involves all the resident police officers chasing down a pair of black motorists and the other shows Heflin's deputy pointing out that the majority of the tickets issued in Garrison go to black motorists on charges that suggest racial profiling. The movie itself implies a racist undercurrent in Garrison as all the NYPD officers who live there are White, a black Internal Affairs Detective Carson implies that the cops who live in Garrison are racist to a black patrolman named Russell who is at the scene of the bridge shootout, a black couple who drives through Garrison are unjustly given a ticket by one of Heflin's deputies, and blacks are implied by the officers in different ways as "certain people" who are scared of Garrison and as an "outside element" that would present a crime problem to Garrison.


Stallone stated on the Opie and Anthony Show in 2008 that the film "hurt" his career, and that he had trouble getting roles for eight years, due to the film's failure and the mix of views on whether he was leaving action movies for more character-driven content. Stallone has described this as "the beginning of the end, for about eight years".


  2. Opie and Anthony Show, 1/17/08, Stallone interview.

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