Saturday, 31 May 2014

"Copland" on BLU RAY - A Review Of James Mangold's 1997 Film - Now Reissued In 2011 On A 15th Anniversary 'Collector's Series' BLU RAY...

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"…One Of The Good Guys…" – Copland (2011 15th Anniversary Edition) on BLU RAY

Rewatching "Copland" on BLU RAY - you're struck by a few things. First - what a top movie this is - and the reputation it's gained as such since its 1997 release - is fully justified.

Second - is the astonishing cast. I count more than 15 world-class actors - Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, John Spencer (of The West Wing), Peter Berg (of Chicago Hope), Robert John Burke and Terry Serpico (of Rescue Me), Malik Yoba (of Defying Gravity and Alphas), Bruce Altman (of Damages and Blue Bloods), Paul Calderon (of Hostages and Law & Order), Vincent Laresca (of Weeds and 24), Frank Vincent, Edie Falco, Arthur J. Nascarella, John Ventimiglia and Tony Sirico (all of The Sopranos) - there's even Blondie's Debbie Harry as a bar owner. Yet despite that formidable array of acting chops - it's all over for the lot of them the moment Sylvester Stallone steps onto the screen - in what has to be a career best for him.

Our Sly plays Freddy Heflin - a lumbering New Jersey cop who is coasting through his job as local town Sheriff. Freddy lives in Garrison, New Jersey (population 1280) - off jurisdiction home to many of New York's Transit Cops who moved there in the Seventies when crime threatened to engulf the Big Apple. Freddy stands over a pinball machine on his friendless birthday in the all Blue '4 Aces' Bar - dutifully overlooking an NYPD bag being passed between yet another cop Gary Figgis and a female badge at a nearby table (Ray Liotta and Edie Falco). "That's Freddy!" Gary reassures the nervous Bertha. "He's my guy! He's cool!" Gary smiles - he'll have no problem keeping the sedate Heflin under control.

Freddy is overweight and almost deaf in one ear from an automobile accident involving a sinking car that flew off a bridge he happened to be sitting under as a young man. His only real heartbeat-uptake comes from Liz Randone (Annabella Sciorra) - the beauty queen he pulled from the submerged Buick by smashing the side of his head against the passenger door window to get her free. But Liz went on to marry Joey (Peter Berg) - a drunken womanizer who is sleeping with Rose Donlan (Cathy Moriarty)- wife of the town's real power cop - Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel). Liz smiles as Freddy returns a turtle teddy bear she left on top of her car bringing her kid home from school (an excuse to call on her door) - but she endures Freddy rather than embracing him in her arms.

One night at 2 a.m. in New York City - the 3-7 Cop Crew is getting wasted in a nightclub called Scores - when decorated Officer Murray "Super Boy" Babitch (Michael Rapaport) leaves and gets into his car with one too many drinks taken. But entering the George Washington Bridge he gets sideswiped by two blacks in a sports car that are clearly high - and worse - laughing at him. An angry chase ensues - and thinking a long black steering wheel lock is a sawn-off shotgun - Babitch gives pursuit and fires shots from his handgun. The two cars collide head on in the middle of the GWB - and when the dust settles - both lowlifes are dead. Soon half of Garrison's finest are on the scene trying to control the mayhem led by Leo Crasky (John Spencer) and Ray Donlan (Keitel). One of their cop posse called Jack Rucker (Robert Patrick of Terminator fame) plants a gun in the floor area of the mashed up sports car  - but a black Ambulance Medic who has already swept the vehicle - sees the white boy's ploy and a fist-fight ensues. Babitch feeling his whole life is about to fall apart - puts his hands to his bloodied head - panics - and it 'seems' like he jumps off the bridge into the cold Hudson below when no one but Uncle Ray is looking. The next morning Freddy Heflin is reading THE DAILY NEWS in Garrison - reporting that after stopping two drug dealers - a young hero cop has taken his own life for fear of a judicial system that will destroy him for trying to do his job. But then after a random speeding stop with his newly appointed assistant Cindy Betts (Garofalo) - Freddy lets the unmarked cop car go but sees the scared Babitch in the back seat being spirited away by 'friends' in the force. But neither Freddy nor his Deputy Bill (Noah Emmerich) say anything to anyone about what they know.

Meanwhile uptown and heading up the Internal Affairs Bureau (the I.A.B.)- Moe Tilden (Robert DeNiro) suspects that Super Boy's body is never going to be found because he didn't jump. So he goes out to Garrison Town and in a local Danish shop meets fellow cops Ray and Frank (Harvey Keitel and Arthur J Nascarella) whom he knew from Academy days. Barely disguised verbal jabs ensue and Ray Donlan utters the word 'rat' under his breath as investigator Moe Tilden leaves with a coffee.

Moe then meets with Freddy the local Sheriff - and in a conversation indicates that the massively attended funeral for hero-cop Babitch is a staged farce. "We buried a suit today! How do you feel about that?" he probes the man he suspects still has a conscience somewhere beneath that massive broken frame. "Ambivalence is a disease..." Tilden says. Moe tries harder to reach the Sheriff by putting another thought directly into Freddy's one good ear - unless the body of Super Boy turns up in the river soon - the case being crushed by The Mayor (with mob connections to the town of Garrison) is not going to hold. It's only a matter of time before the young Babitch goes the same way Gary Figgis' partner Sergeant Tunney went a few years back - dead and buried to cover up more local lies. A series of events then unfold that rattle Freddy - and their presumptions that he'll simply roll over on everything begins to gnaw at him - until it becomes obvious that he must man up and take in Babitch to face the I.A.B. inquest in New York City. But first Freddy has to get the scared white kid out of the town jail without both of them getting killed - and without the back-up of officers too scared and too loyal to kingpin Ray Donlan to help...

Although the dialogue is constantly brutal (and convincing for it) - "Copland" is not all 'f' words either. The scene where Stallone and Sciorra finally come together in his home to the Springsteen songs "Stolen Car" and "Drive All Night" (both from his 1980 double album "The River") is both tender and beautifully judged. The acting too is uniformly brilliant. Keitel is all power corrupted (lets a fellow officer fall from a TV aerial who's been soiling his sheets at home), DeNiro is the driven investigator trying to bring truth back to the force and Liotta is a cocksure wiseass cop - until a fire-bombing he arranged goes drastically wrong. The sweating jerky Michael Rapaport as Babitch is superb too - suspecting that his life is not just screwed but in danger from his 'pals'. All are fabulous. But its Stallone's journey back to being a real man and doing what's right that keeps you glued. He put on pounds for the part, pulled back the macho and allowed himself to be sappy at times - he is magnificent in the role and deserved 2nd Oscar glory.

Defaulted to Full Screen Aspect (no bars top or bottom) - the 2011 15th Anniversary Collector's Series BLU RAY picture quality is a huge improvement over the DVD (and previous much-derided BLU RAY incarnations - use Barcode 5060223761770 to get the right issue). So many scenes are properly clear now - even indoors and at night (the party sequence when Babitch realizes what's being planned for him). There are good extras too in the shape of an 'Urban Western' Making Of, Deleted Scenes, Storyboarding of the Shoot Out and a feature-length Commentary by Writer/Director James Mangold. Audio is HTD-HD Master Audio Surround 5.1 and Subtitles are English and English For The Hard Of Hearing. Special mention should also go to Howard Shore's superb brass refrain that gives certain scenes enormous added power.

"Copland" is a bit a wee gem frankly. Make room for this morality tale in your Darkness On The Edge Of Town...

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