Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: James Mangold
This was a Christmas present to myself. I got a little carried away Christmas shopping online a couple of weeks ago and bought a few movies for myself for good measure. I had seen this movie for the first time recently and was thoroughly surprised by how much I liked it. I remember when it came out and can’t figure out why it took me so long to see. Nevertheless this is a really interesting story with a great cast, all of whom delivered excellent performances.
You can say what you want about Sylvester Stallone but I have always been a fan. The thing I like most about this movie is that I think for the first time I watched him in a movie and was really impressed by his performance as an actor. This role got him out of his comfort zone and for once he did something drastically different. I thought it was a really compelling performance and gives us an idea of the potential Stallone had if he had ever branched out more. His career could easily be targeted for plenty of criticism but I grew up with many of his movies and some are dear to me. I think he is often reaching too far in his efforts to stay in the lime light but I can’t help but admire him on some level. He has really overcome quite a bit to be an actor and to enjoy the success he has achieved. When Stallone was born he got stuck in the birthing canal and had to be pulled out by forceps. In the effort to get him out the doctor accidentally caused paralysis to his face and within his mouth. It’s the reason Stallone has such a difficulty speaking and has that awkward movement with his mouth. When he initially wrote the film Rocky he specifically wrote it with minimal dialogue from his character to attempt to mask the disability. If I am not mistaken he has had many operations to try and fix the problem that met with moderate success. He is capable of much more than he was forty years ago when he was working on the first Rocky. So whatever you think about Stallone keep in mind that the guy overcame quite a bit to get where he is today.
This movie came out as the Stallone/Schwarzenegger power years were becoming more and more distant in the past. During the 80s and early 90s there was a time when these guys were on top of the world but by 1995 their time seemed to be over. They have both made efforts to get back into the game over the past several years with some success but things will never be liked they used to be for these guys. When Stallone made this movie he went against the norm. He actually gained weight to play the part (40 pounds) and while he does have his moment in the end it’s still not a role that compares to all the other action roles he has played in the past. He received great reviews for the role but Stallone has actually claimed that the role hurt his career because the weak box office results made it difficult for him to get parts for the next eight years. I don’t think that is the case, his career was already dragging and in truth he always had his ups and downs. Anytime Stallone had trouble in his acting career he just went back to the basics, doing another sequel for either Rocky or Rambo. In the end that is what he did again as nine years after this film he went back to both franchises with a 6th and 4th film for each. I happen to think Rocky Balboa was one of the worst movies I have ever seen but Rambo wasn’t as bad. Stallone has found new success with the Expendables of late but the time for a movie like that has passed and I’m not down with those anymore. As a lifelong fan of Stallone I take the guy for the good and bad but most of the good is long behind him now. Personally I would like to see him accept his age and go after more roles like the one we saw in this film. Of all of his films I literally think this was the best he ever did acting and believe that he is capable of doing it again.
While Stallone makes the easiest talking point for this movie there is plenty to be said about the film as well as the rest of the cast. It’s a mob movie about cops and that’s an interesting dynamic. Those charged with serving and protecting the rest of us are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard but sadly this is often not the case. The men who are supposed to be the good guys are often in the position to be as bad as they want if they choose and plenty of them choose to do just that. It’s a low paying and thankless job that makes the decision easy on men with low morals to begin with. The cops we see in this film are as dirty as they come and they have all gathered together to live in the same neighborhood, Cop Land if you will. They run the town themselves while the introverted sheriff is more than willing to turned a blind eye and what is really going on. The sheriff has had an unlucky life in which he was never able to accomplish what he really wanted. He turns the blind eye because he wants so badly to be part of this group of men he oversees. He had always wanted to be one of them but couldn’t pass the test due to his hearing disability. They know what he wanted out of life and it gives them an opportunity to sweet talk him into anything they want simply by including him from time to time. When the sheriff’s eyes are finally open he rises to his station in life and does the right thing against all odds. It was a great role for Stallone and he did an excellent job playing it. It’s really a pity he isn’t proud of it himself.
This is a star studded cast featuring many men regularly cast as mafia men playing the same type of part only in a blue uniform. Robert De Niro checks in as the dreaded IA officer who polices the other cops. Harvey Keitel is the big dog leading the corrupt police officers in his crew. Ray Liotta is the wild card who used to be in with Keitel but now operates on the outside so to speak. Michael Rapaport has never been an exceptional actor but he has played many exceptional parts. In this movie he is the officer who screws up royally and becomes a liability for the others. Robert Patrick is an awesome actor who brings a great presence to any role he plays, in this film he looks ridiculous in that mustache but still manages to pull it off as the enforcer type for Keitel. Janeane Garofalo really goes against the norm in this one playing a cop and doesn’t bring the same type of character we usually see from her on screen. Making this a true mob movie about cops we also have several cast members in small roles that would go on to play parts on The Sopranos such as Pauly Walnuts, Phil Leotardo, Carlo Gervasi, and Carmela Soprano just to name a few.
I really enjoyed this movie and felt I was at a loss for not having seen it over all these years. One of the things I liked about it personally, aside from how great Stallone played the part, is that the part of the sheriff reminds me hands down of a guy that I work with. The Sheriff had this shy awkwardness to him and his mannerisms that are just spot on with a man I work with. The guy I work with is a character. For reasons nobody can remember we call him “the Juice” and sometime he comes in flavors. Depending on his garb, style of hair, or simply something strange that he does we have a variety of names that apply to him. Such as G.I. Juice, Dr. Juice, The Juicelhoff, Papa Stache Juice, Grizzly Juice, Dapper Juice, and the list goes on and on. The guy is really one of a kind and he is good humored when we pick around with him. I can’t stress enough how much Stallone reminds me of our Juice in this movie and that makes it specifically special to me.
Here is an image of the Juice. This guy is truly one of a kind. He is the Juicelhoff flavor of Juice in this image. If you notice the chest hair he exposes us to in this garb you might understand why we call him the Juicelhoff on a day like this. (We just merged his name with Hasselhoff). This guy may be different but he has a heart of gold and he brings an interesting character into our lives at work. I always appreciate the characters in life, because we all have a role to play in the stories we create in our lives. In our work place this guy is a character that brings a quality we all find endearing and he is a valuable member of our work family.
This movie hasn’t made any noise in the last fifteen years or so and hasn’t had the staying power that other films like it have enjoyed. I don’t specifically know why but I think it deserves the attention that plenty of others do. It’s a good movie with an interesting story and a great cast. I don’t know why it took me so long to see myself but once I did I wasted little time making it part of our collection. I think it deserves its spot on the shelf and I think it is worth your time to see.
I actually thoroughly liked this movie. It was the least cheesy I have ever seen Stallone. I thought the concept was interesting and the cast was well done. The poster didn’t hold up to the movie for me because…
…it’s another montage of characters and scenery. Really the designers just can’t be blamed anymore. The clients are in control. The movie powerhouses are in control. Appeal to this x audience and put in the city. OH we can get more viewers in the theaters if we show five guys on the poster instead of one. Insert eye roll here. I just think simple is better and more intriguing. Which is kind of what you want the audience to feel right? Intrigued? It’s just my little opinion, but I think less is better. Having said all that, this one isn’t as bad as most of the montage posters that I have looked over. It’s not by far my favorite poster obviously but it’s not the worst either.