Cop Land (Mangold, 1997)

Definitely a step up in budget and star power (Cop Land has one of the better casts of recent memory), but Mangold manages to retain much of the tension and pacing seen in his debut film Heavy. Cop Land resides in the realm of the crime drama, but it’s really a Western underneath – Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sly Stallone in a great performance) battling the underbelly of a small town (led by Harvey Keitel’s corrupt cop), outsiders unable to understand or help, and the violent retribution of past sacrifices playing a key role. Mangold once again pays close attention to faces and their particular relationships to space, this time excluding sound from key scenes to parallel Freddy’s inability to hear out of one ear. Throughout the film we see how alone Freddy feels, a small town man of the law surrounded by the arrogance and greed of big city politics, but this aesthetic approach brings the final bloody conflict more weight, pushing the viewer into Freddy’s POV with stunning clarity. Mangold’s director’s cut, clocking in at almost 15 more minutes than the theatrical version, drags a bit, however the film as a whole marks a shining example of what a talented, film literate director can do when given moderate funds and an amazing ensemble.

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