• 07-10-2005, 12:50 AM
    Lexmark3200
    A DVD REVIEW: COP LAND - EXCLUSIVE DIRECTOR'S CUT (Miramax/Buena Vista)
    "Listen to me......listen to me you DEAF ****......I gave you a chance to be a cop and you BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW IT!!!"
    -Robert DeNiro, Cop Land



    Now here's a motion picture you really dont know what to make of; I can remember seeing this for the first time and not being impressed by it at all, despite its massive cast including Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Kiatel, Ray Liotta, Edie Falco, Michael Rappaport, Robert DeNiro and others. Yet, over the years, and after recently catching it on cable countless times, James Manigold's Cop Land has grown on me, and I decided to add it to my DVD collection --- and just in time, too, as Miramax, as part of their Collector's Series, has released an excellent "Director's Cut" DVD of the film which adds many scenes cut from the cable broadcast version of the film.

    Lets get this straight right away: this is NOT one of DeNiro's, Kiatel's, Liotta's, or Stallone's best roles; there is something missing either from the amateurish direction of Manigold or in the screenplay writing that just makes these top-notch actors not have much to work with here; but it all comes together at the end as a good night's entertainment anyway. Stallone and DeNiro both gained a good amount of weight for their roles in this film (you will not see Stallone with any six-pack "Rocky Balboa"-like abs when his shirt is off), but thats not why you are reading this thread, so here's the plot, which splinters off into a billion sub plots along the way and makes Cop Land difficult to follow after awhile, although the basic premise is there: I dont think James Manigold knew what to do with the good material present.

    Stallone, the focus of the film, plays the Sheriff of a small New Jersey town, Garrison, just on the other side of the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City with New Jersey. It is a town strictly lived in and populated by New York City cops from a certain precinct, most of which have done dirty deeds in the past and cover their tracks by living and hiding in this "Cop Land". Stallone's character is deaf in one ear because of an accident he had in his youth, trying to save a girl's life whose car went off a bridge and into the water.....this same girl ends up later in life marrying one of the cops that are living in his town, and this issue of Stallone's character's bad hearing is constantly brought up in the film, probably to make us sympathize with the character, which we do.....like I said, this was not one of Stallone's better roles (for that, see Nighthawks with him and Rutger Hauer, which was awesome).

    The film opens with Michael Rappaport's character (also a New York City cop dubbed "Superboy" and nephew of Harvey Kiatel's character) leaving a bachelor party at Scores strip club in New York City, where on his drive home, is violently struck by another vehicle on the George Washington Bridge driven by two young African American males; when Rappaport sees what he thinks is a shotgun being pointed at him from the other car, he opens fire himself at the two men, leading to killing both of them and eventually crashing into their car. Immediately, Kiatel, Robert Patrick (yes, of Terminator 2) and a bunch of other cops arrive on the scene to investigate what happened, but when they find no weapons in the car of the kids that Rappaport shot at, they decide a cover-up must take place to protect Rappaport as a cop. It seems Kiatel's character has a "knack" for covering up cops who need protection from the PBA and Internal Affairs, which is lead by DeNiro's character. Rappaport then stages his own suicide of jumping off the bridge to fool the media, while he is really in hiding with Kiatel and the other cops "in" on the coverup.

    From here, this film splinters into different directions and sub plots; there is a sub plot regarding Ray Liotta's character, who seems to be the only "good cop" in this group, and who sympathizes with Stallone and is at odds with Kiatel. Then, because of pressure from the PBA president, played by Frank Vincent (who is in almost every Martin Scorsese picture), who claims a "dead body MUST be found" in terms of Rappaport's character, Kiatel and his crew of cops attempt to drown Rappaport in a pool in his back yard; from here, it is obvious that Kiatel is a dirty cop responsible for covering up whatever needs to be for the good of the police force and the media; then, we have DeNiro's character, who is an Internal Affairs lieutenant, trying to prove Kiatel and the cops in "Cop Land" are dirty and are covering up this incident with Rappaport, because DeNiro has proof Kiatel has done this before, which lead to another cop's real suicide years before. DeNiro goes to Stallone for help in bringing Kiatel down, but Stallone doesnt know who to trust --- Kiatel tells him that DeNiro's character is a "scum bag" and looking for personal revenge on him, while DeNiro tells Stallone that Kiatel is pretty much a scum bag, too, for illegally tampering with evidence of cases. The essential plot of this film is that Stallone's Sheriff character finally has a chance to do something that makes a difference in this small town of his populated by mainly dirty cops --- bring Rappaport's character in himself to the New York City Police for protection, but because of confusing sub-plotting and slightly inept screenplay writing, we sometimes get lost as to what is going on in Cop Land.

    In the conclusion of the film, Stallone ends up finding Rappaport, who has been hiding in Garrison in a water tower the whole time Kiatel and his cop buddies are looking to kill him because of this cover up they need accomplished, and tells Kiatel he has him and is going to bring him in to the NYC police the next morning (this was an added scene in this Director's Cut that was not shown on cable). Kiatel's men are waiting the next morning and grab Rappaport from Stallone's clutches, while Robert Patrick's character shoots his pistol right next to Stallone's working ear, making him now deaf in the other ear as well. Stallone, now wounded badly and not being able to hear much of anything, goes on a rampage, picking up a shotgun and going after the cops who "kidnapped" Rappaport from him.....the end sequence is a bloody, slow-motion shootout between Patrick, Kiatel, and the men who were in on trying to kill Rappaport --- plus also Ray Liotta, who shows up to help shoot these men along with Stallone. The film concludes with Stallone, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds and from his ear, along with Liotta, bringing Rappaport to NYC police headquarters and to DeNiro for protection.

    There was also another sub plot in the film which involved Stallone figuring out exactly what is going on in his small New Jersey town: it seems two New York mob families are in on the shenanigans with the cops in Kiatel's precinct, whereby the mob is allowed to run drugs through the precinct, while in return, they finance and pay for the houses of these cops living in Garrison; this is what I meant by this film getting confusing in some spots, and splintering off into different directions. The main underlying theme, here, though, that Manigold was trying to portray, was Stallone's character --- who has been a quiet, silent, obidient Sheriff of this crooked cop town looking the other way --- finally doing the right thing and standing up for justice against these crooked cops.

    While there are pretty dynamite performances by Liotta and at times Kiatel, this film is not really a hotbed of good acting from these top-tier actors, especially DeNiro. But again, I suspect this is from material they just didnt have much to work from. Still, at the end of the day, Cop Land is a pretty good night's entertainment, and I can recommend it to fans of the cop/action/conspiracy kind of genre of cinema. And, as I also noted, this "Exclusive Director's Cut" of the film adds many scenes cut from the broadcast version which flesh out the plot and characters a bit better.

    VIDEO SPECIFICATIONS:
    1:85:1 WIDESCREEN TRANSFER ENHANCED FOR 16X9 TELEVISIONS

    Housed in a typical DVD keepcase and with some nice artwork on the front with silver banners exclaiming this is a Director's Cut of the film, Cop Land - Exclusive Director's Cut comes as a single disc presentation and yet is packed with extras about this film. Miramax is one of those banners under the Disney corporation's video division which include Buena Vista, Hollywood Home Video, Touchstone and some others, and in this case, they did a good job with the 1:85:1 transfer which filled my screen with no letterboxing. The transfer is clean with nothing really to say of it except that it looks fine --- there are some very, very, very (did I say very?) rare occasions during very dark scenes in the film that appear a slight bit grainy, but its only for a moment or two. Overall, a smooth look to this transfer.

    AUDIO SPECIFICATIONS:
    DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1, FRENCH LANGUAGE TRACK

    As befitting an action/drama like this, the Dolby 5.1 mix on this disc doesnt pack much of a punch, and most of the audio remains up front. But side to side stereo separation was excellent, and there are moments of surround support for score and music, or during interior scenes such as when Rappaport is in the strip club in the beginning --- you get a sense of the surroundings through the rear channels during this scene. Perfectly adequate audio for a film like this, is what I would call the mix.

    One thing I did notice, though, that much like the alternate extended version on the Independence Day DVD, whenever there was an added scene in Cop Land, the audio and speech from the center channel took on a whole different characteristic, making it obvious the added scenes were dubbed in; it is a really awful effect, as we go from kind of crisp-sounding dialogue to an added scene in this Director's Cut, and the dialogue suddenly gets congested and muffled, letting the viewer know exactly where the added scenes were dubbed in.

    Gunshots are mainly from the center, as well, with, suprisingly no echoing to the surrounds, or any bullets "pinging" into the rears as we like to hear; but the overall Dolby track is nice and clear, even the dialogue (although I did, at certain points, detect a SLIGHT amount of distortion in certain isolated dialogue parts --- but VERY isolated, such as when certain characters are shouting) and thats what makes up most of this film, so I guess we cant ask for more from Disney/Buena Vista/Miramax or whatever the hell else this studio is calling itself these days. One thing I did notice watching this DVD on a surround system is that in one scene where Stallone comes to talk to Kiatel at his house during a party, in the background is the Blue Oyster Cult classic "Burnin' For You" playing; I am a fan of this Long Island, New York band, and it was something I never picked up on watching the film on cable --- much like the same way it took me awhile to hear Blue Oyster Cult's "Dont Fear The Reaper" played in John Carpenter's Halloween as Jamie Lee Curtis and her friend are driving and smoking weed while Michael Myers is driving behind them.

    There is a hint of LFE information running through the track --- there is a presence there of some bass, to support certain scenes and such, but nothing that will shake your house apart for sure.

    SPECIAL FEATURES on this Director's Cut include:

    -Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
    -Shootout Storyboard Sequence
    -The Making of an Urban Western: Behind the Scenes
    -Feature Commentary with Director James Manigold, Producer Cathy Konrad, Actors Sylvester Stallone and Robert Patrick