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Cop Land (1997)
One of the greatest movies ever made w/ one of the best casts ever assembled
Seldom does a cast, story, and location come together so well as it does in this film. Sylvester Stallone plays a meek and mild sheriff whose small town, located across the GWB from NYC, is primarily populated by NYPD cops who took advantage of an administrative manipulation in order to live outside the city limits. In order to do this, they opened their precinct up to the mob, enabling the mob to obtain drugs seized by the cops in return for low-interest loans to buy otherwise unaffordable housing in the serene town of Garrison, New Jersey. The ring leader of the corrupt cops is Ray Donlan, played w/ admirable frankness by Harvey Keitel, who was once a noble officer but now serves as the main conduit between NYC mobsters and the precinct he serves.
This film's message is a stunning encouragement to garner the courage to do what is right despite the risks involved. Robert DeNiro, in his best supporting performance as an Internal Affairs agent, is the catalyst that inspires Stallone's Sheriff Heflin, who has long admired NYPD but cannot join their ranks due to partial deafness, to take a good look around him and bring down his amoral benefactors before they end the life of a fellow officer. Ray Liotta is brilliant as a morally bankrupt undercover agent whose internal struggles between loyalty to his own interests and the memory of his dead partner (killed by a member of Donlan's network) keep him at bay until realization of his own demons enable him to risk all and aid Sheriff Heflin in his newfound quest.
This story unfolds against the backdrop of a modern-day dilemma faced by city cops - should they be forced to live in the crime-swamped cities they serve or should they be enabled to live elsewhere, for their own safety and the safety of their families? Also, this film admirably addresses the personal dilemma faced by public servants like Freddy Heflin - should Heflin, whose eternal dream to become a cop was granted to the furthest extent possible by Donlan's gift of a sheriff's position, sacrifice his own well-being by doing the right thing and turning on Donlan and co. or should he continue to quietly serve as a member of Donlan's nefarious network? Perhaps the best scene in the film is not even found in the original version but rather the Special Edition Director's Cut where Stallone and Keitel have a confrontation at the Four Aces (the local pub exclusively reserved for Garrison's NYPD pop.). Stallone exhibits his disgust and dismay at the true nature of Garrison and Keitel barks "Who the f*** do you think you are?" Stallone replies "The Sheriff of Garrison, New Jersey." The climax and finale exhibit not only the costs of sacrificing one's comfort for what is right but also the rewards.