Thursday, March 24, 2011
(August 1997, U.S.)
Every once in a great while a ripple occurs in the general order of things that threatens to rock the very foundations of our universal order. In this case, it's the fact that overkill-action star Sylvester Stallone is actually capable of ACTING when he has to. Let's move on and see what I'm talking about...
COPLAND is, of course, about cops...cops who work in Manhattan, but have created a life for themselves and their families just across the George Washington Bridge in the fictional town of Garrison, New Jersey. As one would predict, many of these cops are corrupt to the bone. Stallone plays the quiet sheriff of Garrison whose only real stretch of law enforcement is pulling over speeders and investigating who's illegally dumping their garbage in front of his friend's house. In other words, he's a town sheriff who knows his place amongst real bad cops and hasn't got the balls to stand his ground on anything (a very ANTI-Stallone character, indeed!). The rest of the cast plays like a who's-who of cop and mafia films, including Harvery Keitel, Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro as the internal affairs man investigating bad cops. Yes, my friends, what we have here is MEAN STREETS meets ROCKY meets TAXI DRIVER meets GOODFELLAS, and it's fucking great! But like most other cop films, those who corrupt our system will eventually meet with justice, and it's the sheriff of this small New Jersey town who will stand alone against all the bad guys in a final shootout showdown for truth and justice (sounds just like Gary Cooper in HIGH NOON, doesn't it?). Stallone's performance builds slowly but achieves a stunning payoff when his character (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 together in unison. His transformation is more than a matter of his physical weight. He looks spiritually beaten and terribly sad. In other words, he looks like a real person and not the cult-of-the-body movie star he's been known as for so long. He uses this opportunity to deliver what I consider to be his best performance since F.I.S.T.(1978).
COPLAND's additional strength is in its hard-edged, novelistic human portraits, which pile up furiously during the film's dynamic opening scenes right up until the final moment. Everywhere the director's camera turns in this tense and volatile drama and it finds enough interest for a truckload of conventional Hollywood fare. Whatever small limitations the film may possess, COPLAND has true talent to burn up on the screen.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lt. Ray Donlan: "Listen to me, Freddy. You know the difference between men and boys? BOYS bet everything on everything! Boys take every hand as a royal flush. You play cards with a MAN, he knows his limits! Freddy, I invited MEN, cops, good men to live in this town. And these men make a living, they cross that bridge every day to a place where everything is upside down...where the cop is the perp and the perp is the victim! But they play by the rules. They keep their guns in their holsters and they play by the rules. The only thing they did was to get their families out, BEFORE it got to them. We made a place where things make sense and you can walk across the street without fear! And you come to me with a plan to set things right! Everyone in the city holding hands singing 'We Are The World'! That's very nice. But, Freddy, your plan is the plan of a BOY! You made it on the back of a matchbook without thinking...without looking at the cards! I look at the cards. I see this town destroyed. Now that's not what you want, is it?"
That part about "We Are The World" cracks me up every time because it genuinely and perfectly represents my general cynicism toward the world! Thanks, Harvey!