1997 Movie Review: COP LAND, 1997

Movie Reviews

Directed by: James Mangold

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Rober De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport
Review by Jarred Thomas


The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City policeman slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption.



Writer/director James Mangold creates a film that examines the underbelly of corruption among New York City cops who reside in New Jersey, bending the rules to fit their needs while hiding a dark secret about a recent murder. Sylvester Stallone plays the morally straight New Jersey cop who suffered an ear injury that has relegated him to only work small time crimes. He has become something of joke among most of the residents, in particular NY cops led by Harvey Keitel who reside in the community.

Stallone’s understated performance plays against type and he does a wonderful job in his role. Stallone gained weight for the role and it adds to the character as he appears slow and out of shape. He looks like a real person and not some caricature. It’s a quiet performance unlike his previous films and one that gained Stallone critical praise from critics and peers.

Freddy Heflin (Stallone) is the sheriff of a fictional town called Garrison in New Jersey. When he was a teenager he jumped into the river to save a girl who plunged in from the bridge. In doing so, he damaged his ear making him unable to become an officer on the streets. Now, he’s relegated to perform small deeds such as preserving the peace, scolding rowdy children and check parking. His authority is limited, if he has any at all.

Cop Land is a look at big city corruption in a small town. Harvey Keitel as Ray Donlan does a nice job in his role playing a corrupt officer who acts with more authority in town then he really has, but when he speaks, people listen out of fear. Donlan has ties with the mob which have allowed him to have certain cops placed in his town, giving the name “Cop Land.” Many of the houses in town were bought through dirty money and the depravity doesn’t end there.

Ray’s nephew, Murray (Rapaport), a young cop, unintentionally kills to two black teens after his car side swipes them. Out of fear of racial incident, Ray tries to fake Murray’s suicide. However, when Moe Tilden (De Niro), an Internal Affairs investigator comes investigating, he smells a cover up. Not willing to get caught, Ray tries to have Murray killed, but the job doesn’t go as planned leading Murray to seek the help of Freddy. Can Freddy stand up against the corruption in town or is he simply out of his league?

Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel both provide a well needed boost of energy in this film because although Stallone does a solid job as the slow witted sheriff, there’s really not much to speak of with the other actors. Liotta plays a good/bad cop whose conscience is starting to get the best of him and his loyalties come into question. But it feels clichéd like most of the other characters who hit only one note.

Cop Land has its strong moments, most coming from the three actors De Niro, Keitel and Stallone, but it’s not entirely enough. Towards the middle of the movie, it meanders a bit like Freddy does, maybe even more. Perhaps Stallone being out of his action element too draws attention to itself, and when he finally picks up a weapon the action scene is far too predictable to be even remotely believable. There’s just not enough to recommend this film despite the standout performance of Stallone.


Film Review: PATRIOTS DAY (USA 2016)

patriots_day.jpgDirector: Peter Berg
Writers: Peter Berg (screenplay), Matt Cook (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons

Review by Gilbert Seah

PATRIOTS DAY tells of the heroes behind the capture of the Boston marathon bombers. Arriving 3 years after the incident, the film is still as timely owing to similar terrorist attacks around the world – in Miami and Paris, just to name a few. In fact, the film also pays homage to the victims of those attacks as they are mentioned during the film’s closings credits.

The second film in less than year from director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg sees PATRIOTS DAY as an improvement with a more serious tone than the previous DEEPWATER HORIZON. More so, since the film is a re-creation of the Boston Marathon bombing on the holiday Patriots Day, which the title of the film derives from. It is the star vehicle again of Wahlberg and it is not surpassing he chose this role as Boston is the star’s hometown.

The film is an earnest account of Boston Police under Commissioner Ed Davis’s (John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it.

The film takes a while before establishing a sound footing. The first third of the film feels like the garbage that was in director Berg’s DEEPWATER HORIZON as in the scene where Wahlberg’s young daughter explains to him and wife how an oil rig could explode with a can of coke at the breakfast table. The family scenes of various characters at the film’s start sets the film up like a soap opera with the director like a traffic cop, but the film improves from there getting to the main business at hand.

The film’s best segments are those that involve the terrorists – as one is always curious of a world one knows very little of. The best of these is the interrogation segment where a lady expert is brought in to question the wife of the deceased bomber. One cannot help but admire the professionalism on display here – from the scripted questions to the suspenseful staging of this scene. The ultimate question that needs to be answered is “Is there another bomb?”

The film feels racist in the one scene with the asian whose car is hijacked by the terrorists. He speaks with a typical Chinese accent with all the ‘r’s pronounced as ‘l’s. But when the actual Chinese portrayed appears at the closing credits, he speaks with the same accent pronouncing all the ‘r’s as ‘l’s.

The purpose of the film is clearly a dedication to the strength and courage of the citizens of Boston from the law enforcement to the victims to the FBI. The last 10 minutes including the end credits are specially devoted for this purpose and though director Berg overdoes it, one can hardly complain over words like ”We consider ourselves not the victims of violence but the ambassadors of peace,’ voiced from the actual bomb victims.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWPRxMj8Wl8



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TIFF 2016 Movie Review: DEEPWATER HORIZON (USA 2016)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

deepwater_horizon_poster.jpgDEEPWATER HORIZON (USA 2016) **
Directed by Peter Berg

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, John Malkovich

Review by Gilbert Seah

Based on the true-life worst U.S. oil disaster in history, DEEPWATER HORIZON is nothing more than a super expensive a re-enactment of the disaster using special effects with a cliched story line framed by testimonies of the survivors at a hearing.

Director Peter Berg who made some original films in his time like VERY BAD THNGS and KINGDOM seems to be out of touch here. The film is a complete bore from start to finish with cardboard performances from Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and Kate Hudson.

Even John Malkovich dishing, out his usual side nastiness cannot save the day. Another disaster film that proves that disaster films (THE TOWERING INFERNO, THW SWARM, both POSEIDON ADVENTURES) are pure disastrous rubbish!

Lots and lots of pyrotechnics but repeated again and again with lots of screaming actors. See it in IMAX for a larger than human headache experience.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-UPJyEHmM0

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