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), who 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 Bridge by a couple of kids. Thinking they fired on him, 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 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 completely closed the whole case down earlier due to Heflin's hesitation in helping. Heflin steals several NYPD files on the cases when he is leaving the office. 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. His deputies listen to his discovery with skepticism, and one, Cindy Betts (Janeane Garofalo), also abandons him. 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 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 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 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 Jersey from across the river.
|Sylvester Stallone||Sheriff Freddy Heflin|
|Harvey Keitel||Det. Ray Donlan|
|Ray Liotta||Det. Gary 'Figgsy' Figgis|
|Robert De Niro||Lt. Moe Tilden|
|Peter Berg||Det. Joey Randone|
|Janeane Garofalo||Deputy Cindy Betts|
|Robert Patrick||Det. Jack Rucker|
|Michael Rapaport||Det. 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|
|Paul Calderon||Hector the Medic|
Despite critical praise for the film and Stallone's acting, and opening at number one, the film's $45 million domestic gross ($65 million in 2006) was portrayed as a disappointment. However, in retrospect, the film's $25 million budget made the take a fine return, especially considering the dark content and tone. Since then, the film has found a second life on cable television and home video and DVD and is considered to be one of Stallone's best performances and an important film in Mangold's portfolio.
The 1957 film 10 to Yuma is one of Mangold's favorite movies, and the character Freddy Heflin is named after the lead actor of that film, Van Heflin. In 2007 Mangold remade 10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
AN ARRESTING FLICK `COP LAND' PULLS NO PUNCHES AND FEATURES A RENEWED STALLONE.(Entertainment/ Weekend/ Spotlight)(Review)
Aug 15, 1997; Byline: Mike Pearson Rocky Mountain News Entertainment Editor Cop Land Grade B+ Freddy, Sylvester Stallone; Ray, Harvey Keitel;...