Soprano Prehistory–Cop Land

Just watched the ’97 movie Cop Land today. Don’t know how this one managed to escape me for seven years–it’s a damn good cop flick, with shifting moralities and hard choices and an unbelievably good cast–DeNiro, Keitel, Stallone, Michael Rapoport, Leo McGarry from the West Wing, Ray Liotta…as each character comes on screen, it’s one of those “damn! HE’s in this too?” moments. (Even Janeane Garofalo as a deputy–wha?–can’t screw this up.) The plot–cops in NYC have moved their families across the river to a town called Garrison, New Jersey, where they can live in peace. Problem is, it’s a who-watches-the-watchmen situation, as the cops grow increasingly bold in their own lawlessness. The sheriff of Garrison is Stallone, worlds away from Rocky and Rambo, trying hard to find his courage where he’d be better off just keeping his mouth shut. Stallone’s character never made the NYPD because of deafness in one ear, and the shots of him staring across the Hudson at the NYC skyline are haunting. The plot’s actually got too much crammed into it–this is a novel shoehorned into a two-hour flick–but it’s well worth renting.

A side note is that this film looks like it could be a lost episode of The Sopranos. It’s not just that half a dozen Sopranos characters appear in it–from Carmela herself to Tony’s steak-throwing mistress to Tony’s sporting-goods buddy whose gambling debts got him in trouble to the white-haired mob muscleman who spent Season 5 trying to ice Steve Buscemi. No, Cop Land seems almost to take place on the exact same working-class Jersey streets and neighborhoods as The Sopranos, and the same sense of grim fatalism grips those streets. You get the feeling that the mob guys the movie mentions but never shows might just go by the names of, say, Tony, Silvio, and Paulie.

Jay

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