While Sylvester Stallone will always be remembered for portraying Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, it’s Cop Land that showcases what is arguably his best performance. Playing against type, the marble-mouthed action star proves genuinely impressive as sad-sack Freddy Heflin, the half-deaf Sheriff who oversees a small town in New Jersey where a community of corrupt coppers call the shots. Accurately described by writer-director James Mangold as an urban Western, the film itself is a hugely underrated corruption thriller that deserves – nay, demands – some serious revaluation. A largely talky affair, it’s punctuated by infrequent bursts of action and enriched by terrific genre dialogue (not to mention Howard Shore’s dramatic score), while the cast offers what you might call an embarrassment of riches.
Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro stand out from the pack, with the former getting many of the best lines (quite literally, he’s a coke fiend) and the latter providing maximum De Niro-y-ness. The support, meanwhile, boasts the likes of – deep breath – Harvey Keitel, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, John Spencer, Peter Berg, Noah Emmerich, Janeane Garofalo and Annabella Sciorra. In addition, there’s also an amusing amount of familiar faces from The Sopranos (this reviewer counted twelve), and a quietly devastating lead performance from Stallone. In what is definitely his best turn since Rocky – and arguably his best ever – Sly proves beyond doubt that he can act. Yo, Adrian! He did it. Again.