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Film / Cop Land

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"I look at this town, and I don't like what I see."

Cop Land is a 1997 crime drama written and directed by James Mangold, starring Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert De Niro.

The story follows Freddy Heflin (Stallone), a New Jersey sheriff who is charged with keeping order in a tight-knit community of New York police officers. Such a neighborhood might be expected to handle its own business, and this is exactly how the residents see it. Thus, Heflin's authority is rarely taken seriously and he is often dismissed by the locals.

Matters around town are complicated when one of its members is involved in a questionable off-duty shooting and goes missing. It doesn't take long for internal affairs to come sniffing around in the form of Moe Tilden (De Niro), who thanks to jurisdiction must rely almost entirely on Heflin for his investigation to bear any fruit. Consequently, Heflin finds himself pulled in multiple directions, as more facts about the case—and about the town itself—begin rising to the surface.


This film contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Joey Randone is an unpleasant, wife-beating thug, so it's easy not to feel too bad when Ray Donlan lets him fall to his death.
  • Butt-Monkey: Freddy.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Figgsy returns at the end to save Freddy during the climactic shoot-out.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Method Man vs Two Cops??? Method Man EASILY destroys both of them as he critically wounds Randone’s partner and then kicks Randone’s ass and throws him off the roof.
  • Cowboy Cop: Murray ”Superboy” Babitch and Joey Randone. Eventually Freddy becomes this in the end to save the day.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: No one takes Freddy seriously as any kind of law enforcer, but have you seen him shoot, or in action?
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: In the back of a patrol car.
  • Death by Cameo: Subverted: Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan makes a cameo and turns up pretty much only to kill Peter Berg's character, Joey Randone.
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  • Death Is Dramatic: Figgsy’s girlfriend Monica. She got caught during a fire bombing at his house, which he planned to collect the insurance so they could both leave town and start over but Figgsy didn’t mean for her to get caught in the fire and his tears clearly show his pain and regret for inadvertently getting her killed
  • Dirty Cop Doesn't take long to figure this out.
  • Disney Villain Death: Joey Randone gets this off camera.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Freddy.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Sheriff's honesty is established in an early scene where he's in need of quarters and opens a parking meter's coin box to break his dollar, leaving the bill folded up inside when he's done.
  • Floating Head Syndrome
  • Heel–Face Turn: Gary Figgis near the end of the film, represented by literally slamming on his brakes as he's leaving town.
  • Internal Affairs: Given the storyline, they're naturally involved.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The NYPD officers vs. their own IAD and a New Jersey sheriff's department.
  • Karma Houdini: Randone's killer gets away with killing him.
  • New Old West: Garrison, New Jersey, is a prime example; director James Mangold has himself cited the film as a neo-western.
  • Police are Useless: Every other cop who isn't Freddy Heflin is either corrupt or incompetent. Or both.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Dirty Cops make some less than flattering remarks about black people at the scene of the initial shooting, which involves black teenagers. Jack in particular tries to plant evidence in their car, only for the nearby Hispanic paramedics to call him out on it.
  • Pop the Tires: Murray thought one of the teenagers he shot did this to him. He was wrong.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Figgsy's reward for helping Freddy deal with Ray and the other crooked cops and redeeming himself for being involved with them is that he survives the end of the film.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A couple of cases as the film reaches its climax.
    • As Freddy starts ramping up his investigation, Cindy Betts requests a transfer back to her old job, as she's tired of dealing with the overwhelming corruption in Garrison and she doesn't want to have to deal with the trouble the NYPD will bring her if she assists Freddy.
    • When Freddy manages to capture Murray Babitch, Bill Geisler's expresses a nervous desire to return home to his pregnant wife, rather than stand guard and potentially await the wrath of Ray and his subordinates.
    • Figgsy skips town after burning down his house and obtaining the insurance money, telling Freddy that he wants a clean start. He changes his mind by the end of the film.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet: The initial shooting happens because Murray thinks one of the victims shot out one of his tires, when in fact the victim was taunting him with a steering wheel lock and the tire was popped by a leftover shard of glass from the beer bottle that Murray crushed while leaving a parking lot. Jack is then caught trying to plant evidence of a gun in the car to try to vindicate him.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted when a firearm discharge is deliberately used to deafen one of the characters.
  • Title Drop: Moe Tilden (De Niro) refers to the community in Freddy Heflin's (Stallone) jurisdiction as "Cop Land." He ends up dropping the tagline in one of his narrations as well.
  • Town With Dark Secrets: Garrison, New Jersey
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Averted, The camera zooms out from the paper Heflin is reading to show the stories related to the incident completely fill two pages. He then closes the paper to reveal the front page is devoted to it as well. The exposure of an entire town packed with corrupt cops which is then involved in a massive gunfight would probably be pretty big local news.


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