Copland Review Essay, Research Paper
Movie Review on “Copland”
Much has been written about Sylvester Stallone’s return to serious acting in Copland. It’s an entirely different matter, however, to watch the action superstar in this new role than it is to read and hear about it. In Copland, Stallone plays Freddy Heflin, the shy, overweight, rather dumb sheriff of the tiny town of Garrison, New Jersey. The most noticeable thing about Freddy isn’t the caliber of his gun, it’s the size of his paunch. And, every time Freddy confronts Copland’s villain, Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), something extraordinary happens: he meekly backs down. It’s a strange thing to see Stallone playing someone whose primary characteristic is impotence.
While this is probably the actor’s best turn since Rocky, and he does a credible job that may earn him the opportunity to do more “serious” work in the future, Stallone’s performance is outshone on all sides. That’s not a knock against him; it’s an acknowledgment that the supporting cast is about the best that it can be. Although Keitel’s one-dimensional, over-the-top portrayal isn’t all that impressive, both Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro manage to craft well-developed, interesting characters. In smaller roles, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, and Anabella Sciorra are equally impressive.
Writer/director James Mangold, who earned the chance to make Copland on the strength of his debut feature, Heavy, uses the same kind of main character here as in the previous film. Freddy is a lonely loner — insecure about himself and his place in the world, and always dreaming of a woman and a life he cannot have. In Heavy, Pruitt Taylor Vince longed for Liv Tyler. Here, the woman who represents Freddy’s perfect female is Liz Randone (Anabella Sciorra). The relationship between these two is one of Copland’s most fascinating elements, but it lacks any kind of resolution, and that represents one of several frustrating aspects of the film’s ending.
Ultimately, Copland is just another story of police corruption in New York City — a Western transposed into modern times. The film takes place in Garrison, a tiny northern New Jersey town (population 1280) that has been dubbed “Copland” because of the number of NYPD officers who live there with their families. Ray and his cronies basically own Garrison, due in large part to Freddy’s passivity. He’s “a wannabe who couldn’t get on the force because of his bad ear,” and who isn’t willing to do anything to rock the boat. But Ray is a bad cop — he has his fingers in a number of illegal pies, and he has connections so high up that not even an internal affairs officer, Moe Tilden (DeNiro), can touch him without concrete evidence.
Copland opens with a dynamic sequence that includes a wildly unpredictable car chase that ends with a young cop (Michael Rapaport) killing two men, then apparently jumping to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Only he’s not really dead; he’s being hidden by his uncle, Ray, who doesn’t want his own illegal undertakings exposed as a result of an internal affairs investigation. When Freddy notices that the rookie is still alive, despite a police funeral and full news coverage of his death, the sheriff unwittingly becomes a player in a high stakes game that involves warring factions of a the NYPD, the mayor of New York, and a high-ranking organized crime figure.
Copland is an energetic movie, but the plot is a little too ambitious. The interaction between individual characters is often highly enjoyable, but, when you try to take in the entire story, implausibilites leap to the surface (not the least of which is how easily a high-profile individual can be presumed dead with the media swarming around and everyone in one town knowing that he’s still alive). The film’s logic is more than a little suspect, and quite a few plot threads are left dangling by the time that the final reel is over. Late reshoots may have given Copland a better sense of closure, but they don’t address all the unanswered questions. With that in mind, it should be recognized that this is a movie to be appreciated for individual scenes, some of which are dynamic and powerful. And there is a certain visceral satisfaction in the resolution, as is often the case in a cop movie.
In addition to the high caliber of acting, another thing that sets Copland apart from an average entry into the genre is Mangold’s dialogue, which sparkles with intelligence. The director may not have Tarantino’s gift for words, but his characters speak reasonably, not like they’re reading from a sheet of paper. Even the supporting players, like Janeane Garofalo’s officer Cindy Betts, say and do things in a believable manner. As I indicated, the overall story has problems, but Mangold is a master of the moment, and he gets us to care about the characters enough that we don’t spend one-hundred minutes obsessing over flaws. As a result, Copland is a compelling, if imperfect, motion picture