Cop Land

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(1997) ★★★★★

With the help of Mob money, New York cops have created a safe haven in New Jersey where paunchy small-town sheriff Sylvester Stallone turns a blind eye to the corruption and kickbacks. James Mangold’s hard-nosed thriller conceals a steely resolve behind a leisurely pace, much like Stallone’s sleepy-eyed sheriff, a half-deaf slob tired of being patronised by the men he idolises.

At its best, Cop Land achieves the intensity and integrity of Sidney Lumet’s cop classics Q&A and Prince of the City. That it should even aim in that direction is reason to cheer. The cast is terrific: Harvey Keitel’s veteran beat cop to whom graft is second nature, Robert De Niro’s manipulative Internal Affairs officer, Ray Liotta’s paranoid undercover cop.

That Stallone more than holds his own in such powerhouse company suggests he too often settled for easy-money options. Here his hulking presence recalls the shambling and oddly moving grace of Robert Mitchum.

The title is two words, by the way. Copland was the great American composer Aaron. The fine music score here is by James Horner, the same year he gushed all over James Cameron’s Titanic.

Certificate: 18