caption width=”600″ align=”aligncenter”]Cop Land Miramax IMDb & Amazon Image One Photo Credit: Miramax, IMDb & Amazon[/caption]

Category: Crime/Film Noir
Film: Cop Land

Written and directed by James Mangold, it was executive produced by the Weinstein brothers (though their names have been removed from the Wikipedia article). Released August 6, 1997 in New York (premiere) and nationwide on August 15, it was an incredible ensemble cast of Sly Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, Janeane Garafalo, Edie Falco, Michael Rapoport, Annabella Sciorra, John Spencer, Cathy Moriarty, Noah Emmerich, Frank Vincent, Malik Yoba, Arthur Nascarella and, cameos of Deborah Harry & Geraldo Rivera.

Sylvester Stallone put on 40 pounds to play Nowheresville, N.J., sheriff Freddy Heflin in Cop Land […]. His town is run by Ray Donlan (Keitel) and the other New York cops who have settled there with their families. He wears blinders when it comes to their lawbreaking and mob dealings. Moe Tilden (De Niro), the internal-affairs officer out to get the goods on Cop Land, correctly pegs Freddy as “a man looking for something to do.” Keitel’s [Donlan] exudes dangerous energy. He cares for his own as long as they don’t cross him […]. Robert Patrick brings sly menace to Rucker […]. Ray Liotta […], as Gary Figgis, [is] a tainted cop who sides with Freddy.

Mangold […] has a rare talent for finding the human drama in ordinary lives.

Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
August 15, 1997

Stallone IMDb & Amazon Image Two
Photo Credit: IMDb

Writer-director James Mangold […] wrangles an impressive cast […] and spins a compelling tale of cancerous corruption among a secretive group of New York’s finest who have settled in the fictional New Jersey burg of Garrison. [Stallone] indeed looks chunky and plays the sleepy, docile Sheriff […] with sluggishness to spare in a largely commendable performance as a half-deaf small-town dreamer. [He] is not given much in the way of memorable dialogue but, he makes the character work […]. [Having] yet to replace his LP of The River with a CD, [he] carries a torch for the local Jersey girl (Sciorra) he saved from drowning…the reason for his loss of hearing in one ear…[he] once longed to be a big-city cop but, had to settle for policing them.

Freddy gradually realizes that he doesn’t like how the town has turned out.

David Hunter
The Hollywood Reporter
August 11, 1997

I saw this at the theater when it came out and caught it, again, a few nights ago. I was born and raised in law enforcement and, worked in it, too (non-sworn). I’ve known good cops and I’ve known some really bad ones. I love a well written cop movie and this was an unusual one in that Stallone wasn’t playing a bad ass like Rambo, Cobra, Tango, John Spartan (though I do love that movie) or Ray Quick. This character was different…subdued. His scenes with Annabella Sciorra have Springsteen playing in the background which adds depth and texture to the mood. This is clearly a period piece as all the vehicles, hair cuts and clothing styles are, effectively, early 80s. The River came out in 1980 and music from the Director’s Cut, like Blue Oyster Cult‘s Burnin’ For You came out in 1981. This also manages to cover the Crime category via IMDb and the Film Noir category, simultaneously, via Historical Dictionary of Film Noir (2010). ~Vic

Trivia Bits:
There is a disclaimer at the end of the credits which states “This film is a work of fiction. It is currently illegal for New York City Police officers to live outside the state of New York.”
♦ Arthur J. Nascarella was a real-life NYPD officer.
Debbie Harry acted in the movie but, was edited out in the final cut. She explained on a live television special that although she was cut, she still got paid.
♦ In the scene in which Ray Liotta confronts Robert Patrick in the bar, the dart that Liotta shoves up Patrick’s left nostril was made out of rubber.
♦ Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and John Travolta were considered for Sheriff Freddy Heflin.

Stallone’s Variety Interview 2019

Awards & Nominations

The Making of an Urban Western


  1. I’m pretty sure I saw this but not positive. The all-star cast is impressive. Liotta and Keitel have a long history of playing both good and bad guys which I like because it’s more realistic than actors that get typecast as only heroes or villains. Good write-up with good trivia. I love the one about Debbie Harry. As long as she got paid!

    • Heh. I got help from the movie reviewers. Sometimes, someone else says it better and I’m no wheel reinventor. 😁

      This one is a bit personal to me much like The Breakfast Club. I worked with some really bad cops, myself.

      I wish they had left Harry in the movie. That would have been so cool.

    • Where (generally speaking) did you work with really bad cops? I worked indirectly with them for years (reading their police reports, being interviewed for crimes some of my probationers were involved with, communicating with them about suspected criminal activity, etc.) I do remember one cop that really gave me the creeps that seemed to be obsessed with “bringing down” one of my older juveniles. 99% of the cops I interacted with were decent human beings doing a very difficult job.

    • I was in state law enforcement, not city PD or Sheriff’s office or federal. My office was in a Trooper station but, I didn’t work for the HP. I was in a different LE branch, housed in the same building. My branch was rife with political appointees…most drunk on power, of one sort or another. I had uniformed officers and plainclothes detective-types called Inspectors. We handled all things “vehicle” from motorcycles all the way up to big rigs.

      Were you social work? You sound close to what my dad did with Probation/Parole.

    • We rarely dealt with State Police or any LE at State level. I got my BS (ironic letters, eh?) in LE, worked as a juvenile probation officer for 4 years and realized it wasn’t about crime it was about poverty and other social issues. This drove me back to get my social work degree. Did your dad work with juveniles or adults?

    • My dad started out as Probation, only…adults. He never worked with juvi. Two years into the job, they dropped Parolees into his and others’ laps, doubling or tripling their work. He never explained why. He may not have known why the change took place. It all happened in the early 70s. He did it for a decade and had to get out. He had a supv. that was a complete ass.

    • Our criminal justice has limped along for as long as I’ve been interacting with it and will continue to limp along long after I’m gone. Our way of criminalizing everything and parasitizing the poor doesn’t work except to line the pockets of those who keep the system going. I’m sure your dad has told you a lot of stories. From what I’ve seen those promoted to supervisor meet 2 conditions: 1) they’ve done things the administrators know about that they want to keep quiet; 2) when administrators ask them to do things that nobody would do if the system worked with the ethics and funding it needs to work properly they do them. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but by and large that’s the gist of it. Ask your dad.

    • There were some things that my dad shared over the years. I was about 4/5 when he went into the job. He had no issues with any of his Probation folks. He had one woman that drove him crazy. She checked in with him more than the others, always telling him what she was doing. It amused him a bit. He kept telling her “You’re fine. You’re doing fine. I don’t need to know everything you are doing and everywhere you are going.” The Parolees were the trouble. Once he was given those cases, he had to have some of his buddies on the PD drive by our house on a regular basis (his younger brother was on the PD, too). On the job for a while, my parents marriage began to suffer (for a variety of reasons). After he did his 9 to 5, M-F, he would come home, eat dinner and go back out to ride 2nd shift with whomever he could catch a ride…PD, Deputy, Trooper… He threw himself into his work.

      There is much he didn’t share…not with me. Once the marriage failed, he left the job about a year later. My paternal grandmother became his psychologist after that (I had many conversations with her about that when I got older). I know he was basically railroaded out by the supv. At the very end, my dad had more trouble with the corrupt supv. than he had with any of his charges. And, yes, later on, he did tell me that the whole system was a mess and he hated it. He never really wanted to be in any kind of LE, anyway. He always wanted to be a Fire Fighter.

    • With the POs letting someone know where they would be at all times, that’s exactly what they are supposed to do for safety reasons. It’s a dangerous job. It’s a tough job to do long-term. Lots of vicarious trauma as you learn things about the circumstances of your probationers. I never wanted to work adult probation or parole because I always felt there was still hope for the kids to get on a new path but not so much for the adults. Not saying adults can’t do it but if they keep making those same choices as adults much more difficult to help them with limited resources. I had more than one supervisor try to railroad me out but not easy with a union. What saved me every time was meticulous documentation. I’m sorry he was burdened with parolees (where they keep parole violators in the county jails because they aren’t being forced to send them back to prison) makes it very dangerous for anyone working with them and puts the county inmates at risk of great harm. I’m thinking of that recent attack on the 65-year-old
      Asian woman by the parolee that had killed his mother. He’s probably being held in the county jail right now 😦 I’m glad your dad got out of that mess and went on to becoming a Fire Fighter (I’m guessing he did?)

    • In the case of the woman calling my dad all the time, I can only guess by his recollection of it that, in the early 70s, Probationers were only required to check in periodically. I really don’t know. There also could be law differences between the states. He never shared his check-in schedule with me and I didn’t find out about the PD riding by our house all the time until I was in my 20s. He never told me of the outcomes of any of his Probationers, good or bad. I do recall him being pursued by an Asst. D.A. that tried to get him to go to law school. Apparently, he was very, very good at his documentation and being on the stand but, he was never interested in being an attorney. And, I don’t know about how things are now (he left in 1980) but, he did say that his Parolees, if they broke parole, went back to prison. They may have been held in the county jail for a short time until a hearing could be convened. But, again, there may be law differences between states.

      He never had benefit of any kind of union. My home state is not big on unions.

      Nope. He never became a FF. His dad was one and when he expressed interest in doing it, his paternal grandfather, his father and his mother went nuts (long before I showed up). He intended to go straight into it after HS but, they, as a group, pitched a big bitch that he was “going to college”…whether he wanted to or not. My paternal great-grandparents had money and his college was “paid for”, even though he didn’t really want to be there. He did do ROTC all four years and nearly went to Vietnam as a 2Lt. (that’s a long story) but, he never tried to do the FF thing. He started out in Forestry but, graduated with a Parks & Recreation degree in 1967 (he REALLY didn’t want to go to college). That was a waste of money and no one would listen to him.

    • I can remember parents of kids serial calling me. Used to p*ss me off. My voicemail would be full of the same person calling over and over. It’s like, I know you wish I was 100% dedicated to listening to your every gripe about your child — until I took action, then you screamed bloody murder because they ended up on tether, then said I was being mean — but with 45 other kids on caseload, not possible lady.

      Sorry to hear your dad’s dream job got sidelined.

    • “…ended up on tether…” I’m not sure I understand that.

      So, parents turned you into their personal psychologist for unpaid venting sessions via VM? They swing wildly from “my kid is a problem” to “how dare you treat my kid like that?” Guess what, folks…y’all sucked as parents and you demand the system clean up YOUR mess?

      I couldn’t do your job…or my dad’s.

      He never really got over it. He knew what was best for him and family interfered. There is much more to that story…the politics & psychology of families is why we have the industries that we do…

    • Kids on probation are governed by court orders and rules of probation. P.O.s have discretion on when to write up probation violations that lead to kids having to go back to court. E.G. if a kid were to have “be home directly after school” in his rules of probation. Say the child was coming home 5 minutes late and a parent was filling up my voicemail with “he’s 5 minutes late every day! you’ve got to do something!” Is his being 5 minutes late because he was walking slower talking to girls a public safety issue? Probably not. But after awhile the phone calls get wearisome and technically he is in violation so you write up a PV and get back into court. Both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney are agog at your decision to waste the court’s time on this nonsense. The referee — who hears most juvie cases, not the judges — is so peeved you’ve brought this into court they authorize the petition and place the kid on (the very expensive daily costing) tether for 30 days to send a message to everyone. The parents are smiling as we walk out of court and keep hammering “see what happens when…” to their kid — until they get the bill. Then they are filling my voicemail up with “get my kid off this tether!” And that’s best-case scenario. Sometimes the kid says fuggit, cuts the tether off, and throws it into the woods. Ah, the good old days!

      I agree very much with your last statement.

    • Ah! Gotcha! Sounds like an ankle monitor for home arrest adults. Yeah. That is something my dad never handled. There weren’t ankle monitors in the 70s…at least, not here. There was just him, riding 2nd shift, knowing that he would eventually run across one of his charges out f***ing up. As P&P, he had the same powers of arrest as any officer/deputy/trooper he rode with and witnessing one of his own charges doing something they shouldn’t have, that made him all the more beloved on the stand.

      You & he had more guts than I do. I had enough trouble in my own short LE career. I did enjoy being a Drivers’ License Examiner, tho…still got to work in a Trooper Station (different one) but, DAMN the politics!

    • The tethers they have now are GPS based and way more sophisticated than the first ones on the market. I used to depend on our surveillance officers to install and monitor them but they were extremely undependable for one reason or another so I became well-versed in all aspects of them.

      The politics of the job was the most dangerous aspect of it.

    • p.s. on your question about social work. Even after I got the degree, I stuck with juvenile probation. It made such a big difference when the “social workers” tried to outrank me. lol

    • Yeah. That would be an advantage. And, it’s good you tried to look out for the wayward kids. The prisons are full of victimless crime inmates.

      I have come to the conclusion that “criminal justice” is an oxymoron.

  2. I remember this but never saw it…I will check it out. It would be nice seeing him in a normal role. My uncle was a Sgt in the Vice Squad and we would talk for hours about it… so I do like well made cop movies.

    I never realized there were that many stars in it.

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