Cop Land

Cop Land is a 1997 American neo-noir[4] crime drama film written and directed by James Mangold, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert De Niro. The supporting cast features Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Cathy Moriarty, Arthur Nascarella, and John Spencer. The story follows a sheriff (Stallone) in a small New Jersey town inhabited and dominated by corrupt New York City cops. Their corruption grows until he can no longer allow himself to stand by and do nothing.

Cop Land
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Mangold
Produced by
Written byJames Mangold
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyEric Alan Edwards
Edited byCraig McKay
Woods Entertainment[1]
Distributed byMiramax Films[1]
Release date
  • August 15, 1997 (1997-08-15) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$63.7 million[3]


The town of Garrison, New Jersey is home to several NYPD officers, led by Lt. Ray Donlan. Freddy Heflin, the town sheriff, idolizes the NYPD and once hoped to become an officer. He cannot because he is deaf in one ear, the result of rescuing a drowning woman many years earlier. Heflin is aware that Garrison's NYPD community is involved in police corruption, but generally turns a blind eye as they do not recognize his authority. Internal Affairs investigator Lt. Moe Tilden approaches Heflin for information on the corrupt cops, but Heflin is intimidated and reluctant to betray them.

One night, Donlan's nephew, Officer Murray Babitch, is driving across the George Washington Bridge when his car is side-swiped by two African-American teens. The passenger points what looks like a weapon just before Babitch's tire blows out. Believing they have fired at him, Babitch shoots back and kills the teens in the ensuing chase. Officer Jack Rucker removes the steering-wheel lock that Babitch mistook for a weapon from the scene and is caught trying to plant a gun in the car. Worried about the repercussions to his own career, Donlan persuades Babitch to fake his own suicide.

In the meantime, Liz Randone, wife of corrupt cop Joey Randone visits Heflin at home. It was Liz that Freddy saved from drowning years ago and while Liz and Freddy confess feelings for each other, she reluctantly leaves before things go too far. Meanwhile, Babitch lives as a fugitive at Donlan's home. But Vincent Lassaro, president of the Patrolmen's Defense Association, tells Donlan that without a body, the case will not stay cold. Donlan reluctantly realizes they have to drown Babitch.

Tipped off by his aunt Rose, Babitch escapes. He goes to Heflin's house for help, but flees when he sees his friend and fellow officer, Gary Figgis. That same evening, Donlan allows Randone to fall off a roof, in revenge for Randone's affair with Donlan's wife.

Realizing the deaths are orchestrated, Heflin visits Tilden. His investigation has been shut down and he angrily dismisses Heflin's effort. On his way out, Heflin steals case files on the Garrison cops. He studies the files and realizes the extent of his residents' corruption. Heflin returns home to find Figgis packing to leave, discovering that Figgis had burned down his own house for the insurance money, and inadvertently killed his crack-addicted girlfriend. Heflin convinces Rose to reveal Babitch's hide-out and takes him into custody. Donlan's team ambush them and fire a pistol next to Heflin's good ear, deafening him, and kidnap Babitch.

On foot and almost totally deaf, Heflin follows them to Donlan's house, where he is joined by Figgis, and a shootout begins. Donlan, Rucker, and the rest of Donlan's team are killed. Heflin and Figgis take Babitch to New York City and hand him over to Tilden. After the scandal has been investigated and indictments handed down, Heflin surveys the New York skyline from across the Hudson River and goes back to work.




Garrison is based on Mangold's hometown of Washingtonville, New York, located about 60 miles (97 km) from New York City. Mangold grew up in a development called Worley Heights, where many of the residents were current and former NYPD police officers.[5]

Stallone gained 40 pounds (18 kg) to portray the beaten-down sheriff of Garrison.[6]


The principal shooting location for the film was Edgewater, New Jersey.[7]


Critical reception

Cop Land had its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on August 6, 1997. Some of the film's cast members attended, including Stallone, Keitel, Liotta, Sciorra, Moriarty and Rapaport.[8]

Stallone's understated performance was praised by critics and he received the Best Actor award at the Stockholm International Film Festival. Cop Land was also screened at the 54th Venice Film Festival in the Midnight line-up.[9] Earlier in May 1997, the film was accepted into the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival, but Miramax declined the invitation due to re-shoots that were needed for the film, including footage of Stallone 40 pounds heavier.[6]

Critical reaction was generally positive. Based on 62 reviews collected from notable publications by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an overall approval rating of 73%.[10] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[11]

Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "There is a rough balance between how long a movie is, how deep it goes and how much it can achieve. That balance is not found in Cop Land and the result is too much movie for the running time".[12] On the other hand, Gene Siskel praised the movie, especially the screenplay, as "one to be savored."

In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin felt that, "the strength of Cop Land is in its hard-edged, novelistic portraits, which pile up furiously during the film's dynamic opening scenes... Yet if the price of Mangold's casting ambitions is a story that can't, finally, match its marquee value, that value is still inordinately strong. Everywhere the camera turns in this tense and volatile drama, it finds enough interest for a truckload of conventional Hollywood fare. Whatever its limitations, Cop Land has talent to burn".[13]

Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Stallone does a solid, occasionally winning job of going through the motions of shedding his stardom, but the wattage of his personality is turned way down—at times, it's turned down to neutral. And that pretty much describes Cop Land, too. Dense, meandering, ambitious yet jarringly pulpy, this tale of big-city corruption in small-town America has competence without mood or power—a design but not a vision".[14] In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote, "With its redundancy of supporting characters, snarled subplots and poky pace, Cop Land really might have been better off trading the director for a traffic cop".[15] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers praised Stallone's performance: "His performance builds slowly but achieves a stunning payoff when Freddy decides to clean up his town ... Freddy awakes to his own potential, and it's exhilarating to watch the character and the actor revive in unison. Nearly down for the count in the movie ring, Stallone isn't just back in the fight. He's a winner".[16] In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle also liked Stallone's work: "His transformation is more than a matter of weight. He looks spiritually beaten and terribly sad. He looks like a real person, not a cult-of-the-body film star, and he uses the opportunity to deliver his best performance in years".[17]

Unlike 1991's Oscar and 1992's Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone's previous high-profile attempts at branching out of one-dimensional action star roles, both of which ultimately ended up commercially unsuccessful, critically panned, and often ridiculed, Cop Land, with its star-studded heavyweight ensemble cast, was met with high expectations as a multifaceted story based around corruption on the New York City police force. Additionally, it was to show Stallone in a completely different light, both physically (his 40-pound weight gain got a lot of press coverage),[6] as well as artistically, by letting him showcase his acting skills. While the film posted a solid box-office intake ($44.8 million domestically), got good reviews, and Stallone received positive critical notices for his performance as a demure small-town sheriff, in 2008 the actor stated on the Opie and Anthony Show that Cop Land "hurt" his career and that he had trouble getting roles for eight years, due to the film's failure to reach the high expectations set for it and the mix of views on whether he was leaving action movies for more character-driven content. Stallone has described this as "the beginning of the end, for about eight years".[18] He recently said about it: "I loved the film, but it actually worked in reverse. It was pretty good critically, but the fact that it didn’t do a lot of box office, again it fomented the opinion that I had my moment and was going the way of the dodo bird and the Tasmanian tiger."[19]



Cop Land: Music From The Miramax Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by

The film's soundtrack features two songs from Bruce Springsteen's 1980 album The River: "Drive All Night" and "Stolen Car", songs by other artists, and an original score from Howard Shore. One additional song, Blue Öyster Cult's "Burnin' for You", was added to the soundtrack of the director's cut, first released on home video in 2004.

The score by Howard Shore was performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra and released as Cop Land: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture in 1997. The soundtrack released on CD contained twelve tracks, with a runtime of 40:11 minutes.[20][21]

All music is composed by Howard Shore.

Track listing
1."All Dressed Up in Blue"4:18
2."Garrison, NJ"1:44
3."Yellow Betray Blue"3:31
4."Local Boy Saves Drowning Teen"3:03
5."Mashed Potatoes Don't Mean Gravy"2:21
6."The Sheriff of Cop Land"2:37
7."Pool of Crimson"4:37
8."The Diagonal Rule"4:25
9."Across the River"4:58
10."Big Blue Pow Wow"2:28
11."Without Looking at the Cards"4:06
12."One Police Plaza"2:03
Total length:40:11

Home media

Cop Land has been released on VHS and DVD numerous times since 1998. The initial extras-free DVDs had the theatrical cut in non-anamorphic widescreen, while subsequent issues, including various "Collector's Editions" on DVD and Blu-ray, have favoured the director's cut. StudioCanal's French and German region B-locked Blu-rays exclusively feature both the 101-minute theatrical cut and 116-minute director's cut.

Extras include an audio commentary (with James Mangold, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Patrick, and producer Cathy Konrad), "The Making of an Urban Western" featurette, a storyboard comparison, two deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

The two deleted scenes primarily show the racism in the town of Garrison. One scene involves all the resident police officers chasing down a pair of black motorists, and the other shows Heflin's deputy pointing out that the majority of the tickets issued in Garrison go to black motorists on charges that suggest racial profiling.


  1. "Cop Land (1997)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  2. "Cop Land (1997) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  4. Spicer, Andrew (2010). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 427. ISBN 978-0-8108-5960-9.
  5. Lussier, Germain. "Local boy makes good ... movies," Times Herald-Record (Sep 9, 2007).
  6. Busch, Anita M (May 26 – June 1, 1997). "He Ain't Heavy ... At Least for the Reshoot". Variety. p. 5.
  7. The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations Archived 2012-04-18 at the Wayback Machine Cop Land in Edgewater
  8. Roman, Monica (August 14, 1997). "A party in Cop land". Variety. p. 27.
  9. Rooney, David (August 15, 1997). "Cop Land replaces Empire in lineup". Variety. p. 39.
  10. "Cop Land - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2013-05-17.
  11. "CinemaScore".
  12. Ebert, Roger (August 15, 1997). "Cop Land". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  13. Maslin, Janet (August 15, 1997). "Cop Land: Sly Holds His Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  14. Gleiberman, Owen (August 15, 1997). "Cop Land". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  15. Kempley, Rita (August 15, 1997). "Cop Land: No Muscle". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  16. Travers, Peter (December 8, 2000). "Cop Land". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  17. LaSalle, Mick (August 15, 1997). "Good Cop Bad Cop". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  18. Opie and Anthony Show, 1/17/08, Stallone interview.
  20. "Cop Land Soundtrack (1997)". 1997-08-12. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
  21. "Cop Land Soundtrack CD Album". 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
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