So once again we have survived.

Cop Land

I always thought COP LAND was a sequel to WESTWORLD, but I guess it’s actually a police drama about a small town in New Jersey set up by the mob to shelter corrupt New York cops outside of the city limits. Could use some out of control robots obviously but otherwise it’s a good movie.

As the movie opens Freddie (Sylvester Stallone) is in a small diner where cops hang out, playing a cop-themed pinball machine. That’s how he spends his birthday. He’s drunk and can’t stop playing, is so into it he takes his sheriff keys to go open up a parking meter and get more quarters. This is him, playing a game at being a cop, watching the city cops talk, they get mad that he’s looking at them. And he can’t even hear what they’re saying anyway because he went deaf in one ear saving a drowning girl when he was young. It keeps him off the NYPD and makes him have to keep having people repeat things to him.

Stallone gives one of his great character actor performances. Quiet like Rambo, slow like Rocky, but more passive and friendly than either. People made a big deal about him gaining weight for the role (his chubby belly is shown in one scene at the beginning) but the real transformation is playing a helpless doofus for most of the movie, watching everything with his big sad eyes, his stupid half-smile hiding whether he’s letting things slide or just missing them altogether. He’s really pathetic, maintaining a hopeless, protective crush on the married woman he rescued all those years ago, being too afraid or too stupid to admit what’s going on in his town is wrong, sporting a broken nose from crashing into a tree when he was drunk. When an asshole cop speeding in an unmarked car chews out Freddie’s deputy for pulling him over, Freddie doesn’t defend her. He apologizes. He is not immediately shown to be strong of character.

Over in NYC a hero cop (A Tribe Called Quest fan Michael Rapaport) is having a bad night. He’s driving home kinda drunk, some crazy teenagers sideswipe him, won’t pull over and point what he thinks is a gun at him, so he chases after them and shoots at them. They turn out to be on crack, but they’re also unarmed, and black, it was a mistake and it looks bad. But a posse of crooked cops led by his uncle Ray (Harvey Keitel) and Robert Patrick (with mustache) swoop in and cover it up before the car is even towed.

Paul Calderon (PULP FICTION, OUT OF SIGHT, KING OF NEW YORK, BAD LIEUTENANT, Michael Jackson’s BAD, PISTOL WHIPPED) has a brief appearance as an EMT who sees them try to plant a gun on the dead kids, calls them out and won’t back down. I’ve never seen that happen in a movie before. They’re planting evidence so he starts yelling about what’s happening and throws the gun off the bridge. Mason Storm could’ve used a guy like that when they were planting drugs on him in HARD TO KILL.

Ray Liotta is in that role I said he never got, the cop who SPOILER does not turn out to be crooked. Or at least he’s less crooked than the other cops. I mean, he’s got a coke problem and everything, but he’s the guy who calls the shenanigans to Freddie’s attention and speaks out against them. He’s a fuckup but he’s anti-shenanigan. In fact, when he almost gives up and leaves town funded by insurance fraud, Freddie is so disappointed that he starts yelling at him. Before that we’ve never seen him raise his voice. He’s always kept his emotions sealed up tight, now they’re exploding all over the place, like that classic monologue in FIRST BLOOD.

And you might expect Robert De Niro to play one of the dirty cops, obviously he has some experience playing that type of character. Instead he’s the good one, the one who’s busting his balls trying to prove what’s going on, but it’s a rickety operation, they’re always trying to shut him down, he gets no support from his department or from cops that could help him, like Freddie. He mostly seems like a nice guy, but throws an all-time classic tirade when Frankie comes to offer his cooperation only after he’s already turned him down and then waited around and then De Niro had to close up shop.

The cast in this thing is out of control. Stallone, De Niro, Liotta, Keitel, Patrick, Rapaport, also Edie Falco, Debbie Harry, Malik Yoba, Annabella Sciorra, even a small non-wisecracking part for Janeane Garofalo, who was getting some roles like that in the indie ’90s. And Method Man when he was still scary – this was released about 2 months after Wu Tang Forever, before his second solo album or team up with Redman – makes his feature-film-but-not-playing-himself debut as a crazy crackhead named Shondel who appears in one scene. He’s got one white eye and platinum teeth and he’s trying to throw Peter Berg off a building. At the time it must’ve seemed weird but now it’s obvious that he’s a guy who travelled back in time to prevent Berg from directing BATTLESHIP so that it wouldn’t flop and GI JOE 2 wouldn’t be delayed and would become a big hit and Jon M. Chu would be able to direct COP LAND 2 THE STREETS.

This was the second movie by writer-director James Mangold, who got the attention of critics with his debut HEAVY, so when he got this cast there were sky high expectations. Since then he’s turned out to be more of a journeyman type director than I think they expected back then. Pretty solid, but not visionary. WALK THE LINE was good. 3:10 TO YUMA was pretty good. I wasn’t so into KNIGHT AND DAY. I have not and will never watch KATE AND LEOPOLD.

From my vantage point in the future maybe I had more realistic expectations for COP LAND than people did back then. I know it has a reputation for not being as good as the sum of its parts, but I really liked it. I probly wouldn’t say it’s one of the all time classics of this police corruption genre, but it’s a pretty damn good one. Great characters, great performances, a building sense of inevitable doom. At the very least it’s a topnotch reminder of Stallone the actor. It’s not about the gimmick of him being out of shape, it’s about his ability to put an unusual person on screen and make you understand him. And I’d say it’s a little more than that too. I approve it. Visit COP LAND today!


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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98 Responses to “Cop Land”

  1. I was a big fan of this when it came out… been a long, long time since I’ve seen it though. I forgot most of those people were even in it. I’ll add it to my queue for a re-watch. Thanks, vern!

  2. Love this film. De Niro’s “YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE, AND YOU BLEW IT!” line is one I try to use in real life on a regular basis.

  3. Mangold also made Girl, Interrupted, which I liked. I didn’t like Identity at all, though. It reminded me of that script in Adaptation that Nic Cage’s twin brother wrote. “The Three.”

  4. Wow. That connection between “The Three” and Identity is spot on. You would have thought that at some point while writing that film (and here comes a spoiler) someone would have thought to himself, “You know, maybe the audience would feel cheated once they find out that the entire film is taking place inside of someone’s head.” The ending to that film is pretty much a variation on the “it was all a dream” fake out.

    I haven’t seen Cop Land since it came out on VHS back in the 90s. It’s interesting to think about whether or not Stallone could have kept on pumping out these dramatic, understated roles instead of rebooting his action career. I remember liking Stallone as the sad sack.

  5. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 17th, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Not to be a pernickity moaner, Vern, but Stallone’s character’s actually called Freddy, not Frankie. I always thought Robert Patrick really looked like Christopher Walken in At Close Range in this one with that hairstyle and floppy moustache.

  6. Yeah I was going to mention the Freddy thing too. This was after DAYLIGHT and I remember Stallone being adamant that taking these type of dramatic roles was something he would follow through on. It’s too bad he didn’t. Not that I’m mad that he’s still making action movies but it’s a bit of a shame when you think about it. Like even Stallone himself forgets that he’s a better actor than he gives himself credit for and we missed out on some possibly great cinema because of it.

  7. I guess I’ll have to watch this, had no idea about the rest of the cast. All I remembered from when it came out is that Stalle is fat and the critics mostly pooped on it.

  8. I think it deserves special credit for the deafened cathartic violence climax.

    That was great payoff for cringing along throughout the movie

  9. Thanks for reviewing this one, Vern. One of my all-time Stallone favorites. It’s a great performance in its own right but what makes it even more compelling is that Stallone more than holds his own among so many other fine actors.

  10. I remember when this came out and people were hyping up Stallone’s performance and his weight gain for the role because, you know, changing your weight for a role, whether up or down, is a sign of commitment to a role and indie street cred in the 90s. Come to think of it, it still is. It’s practically mandatory to mention weight gain or weight loss as show what a great performance the actor is giving.

    Considering how often this gets pulled out, of course I’m a little cynical whenever this gets mentioned, especially when it’s regarding Stallone, whose record of character roles are kind of narrow and whenever he has tried to stretch himself, it’s always to very mixed results, if I am being charitable.

    However! When I went to watch it, I loved this movie. I loved Stallone’s character. It actually filled me with happiness that this was an awesome movie and Stallone was giving his all as a schlub and completely convincing as such.

    I loved all of it. It definitely cracked my cynicism when it comes to the pimping of an unlikely actor giving a fine character performance and I’m glad I was wrong here.

  11. Hm. When did this country flag thing get started? I’m not sure I cosign that.

  12. Absolutely with Broddie on Stallone as a serious actor. In a movie with talent out of every pore and a cast of thousands (Vern forgot to mention John Spencer, who had a smaller role in this movie but did some great work as well), for him to stand out in the cast as he did should have been the moment he seized the opportunity to do more serious work. Look up Sly’s appearance on INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO, which he had done right around the time COP LAND was released. He knows his stuff. I do hope he gets to make his Edgar Allen Poe project, which he mentioned there and had some possibility of happening (with Viggo Mortensen) a few years ago.

  13. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 17th, 2012 at 8:42 am

    It really is a great film, i was also disappointed Stallone didn’t follow up with something a bit more like this, and seemed to regret doing it in subsequent interviews i read with him. He said he thought it had hurt his career, but to me it was the crap comedies and other trash he made before this that hurt him. He’s a fine actor when he gets a chance, or when he can be arsed, i’d like to see a return to this kind of part. In CopLand when the cops are constantly belittling him and putting him down, you see how hurt he is, Stallone’s face really sells his part here. I was surprised at the middling reviews and lack of praise for this when it came out.

    Oh, Paul, i also use the “YOU BLEW IT!!” line constantly. DeNiro’s repetition of lines is at an all-time peak here, i love it. “Is that a Garrison file? Is that a Garrison file?!? Go to lunch! Go to lunch!!”. Great great cast and an excellent film.

  14. It just me who really want a Kate and Leopold review from Vern? Perhaps he should have a chick flick week or something. Is Kate and Leopold the time travel film with Huge Jackman? I would actually like to see Vern review the 10 films he absolutely don’t want to watch. It could be really a fun read for us, not so much fun for Vern.

  15. I watched Kate and Leopold as an act of spousal reciprocity, and I thought it was very well done as chick flicks go. James Mangold is legit.

  16. The “You blew it!” scene is fantastic. I love the way DeNiro goes about eating his lunch like he could absolutely care less what Stallone has to say. The Liotta scene about “moving diagonal” and “perpetual motion” is epic, and the entire high-functioning coke-head character he creates is classic.

  17. I don’t believe Stallone regretted this movie, which a previous poster mentioned. Actually all he said was he regretted gaining weight because it became harder to take off after that. I really liked Stallone’s approach to the role of Freddy. He carried around this little turtle, and he would just rub it once in awhile before a scene started to remind him of his character, who he considered to be this kind of big, lumbering turtle. It’s not often actors let you in on their method for getting into character, and I thought coming from the guy who played Rocky, it was a cool tip that made me reconsider just how seriously Stallone treats the craft. You can find this information on the dvd commentary.

    As for the movie, I loved it so much that I would watch it nearly every week for an entire summer when I was living with my grandmother in the east village. You see back then I was just visiting, and I didn’t have a ton of dvd’s to watch on my computer. But the one I really studied was “Cop Land” because of the performances. The Stallone/De Niro showdown in his office is always enjoyable. The way De Niro eats his sandwich and keeps asking for napkins while they’re fighting. It’s those little touches I like. And I think the opening scene on the bridge was shot and edited immaculately. Unfortunately it sets a tone for the film that audiences expect but don’t get. This is a slower kind of movie without those big shoot-outs. However, there are a lot of “shout-outs”. Cops yell at each other instead of shoot each other…

  18. One of my favorite ‘Hollywood-what-ifs’ is imagining what things could have been like if Stallone decided to stick to more dramatic roles in the wake of Rocky rather than going the action route. There is a chance that we’d be mentioning him in the same breaths as De Niro and Pacino, and then of course there is a good chance that his physical appearance would have limited him and he’d being stuck doing really good but thankless work as mob enforcers or whatever. All I know is that he delivers some of the finest performances I’ve ever seen in Rocky, First Blood and Cop Land bar none.

    As far as Cop Land goes, when Ray Liotta comes back it’s one of the most awesome things. I love when guys come back at the end to help.

  19. At the time, I was kind of let down by this one, which really is a classic “less than the sum of its parts” kinda film. In fact, I think the unbelievable dream cast might have hurt it more than helped it. Too many big names and personalities bouncing around what is actually a smaller, weirder story.

    But, I have to say that Stallone’s Freddy character is a truly unique cinematic creation. His pathetic, almost childlike hero worship, failure to act when he has his chance, and final explosion of pent-up anger at the total betrayal by everyone he looked up to… really remarkable, different, and well-realized. I can’t think of a single other fictional film character that’s really a close match. How often does *that* happen?

  20. I have to disagree with Subtlety. I mean, expectations are expectations, and so if the uber-cast raised expectations so high that they couldn’t be fulfilled, then I guess that is what it is. But I think that it really holds up well just taken on its own terms. Every casting choice (except maybe Garofalo’s) seems spot-on, and the actors all rise to the occasion and even seem to elevate each other’s performance.

    Totally agree with Mickey on Liotta’s showing up at the end. The Outlaw Josey Wales, man. He always doubles back for his man.

  21. The “YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE, AND YOU BLEW IT!!” stuck with me from this movie because when it was first out, they pretty much used that line in EVERY bit of promotion, probably because Deniro was only in a few scenes of the movie.

    And yes, I too strangely want to see Vern review KATE AND LEOPOLD.
    You’ll review all the TRANSFORMER, but you can’t handle a movie where Wolverine is a 19th century nobleman thrown forward into the present day to romance Meg Ryan AND front a butter advertising campaign?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnLdHNG4YMQ

  22. Looking back, it’s almost unbelievable that COP LAND, as good as it is, marked the beginning of the worst 9 years in Stallone’s career. Talking about Stallone and De Niro, anyone looking forward to GRUDGE MATCH with the two as aging boxers? It’s a comedy, but Balboa vs La Motta sounds cool.

  23. I liked Copland and I wish there had been more adventures of John Copland firing corruption.

    I remember this doing fine by drama standards and Stallone being highly regarded. It was three years before he acted again and then it was GET CARTER. I can only imagine he realized the payday wasn’t as high for the respectable films. I’d love to know more. All signs pointed to a dramatic reinvention,

    I think bringing back Rocky and Rambo was great but I wonder what really went on behind closed doors post Cop Land.

  24. I’ve seen ‘Kate and Leopold’.

    (Hangs head in shame.)

  25. So have I…

  26. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:04 am

    The thing i read about Stallone saying Copland hurt his career (which i think is not true at all, it enhanced his acting reputation if anything) was on Aintitcool.com, i believe, it was their 10 questions a day from fans or whatever it was, i’m not sure if it was for Rambo or The Expendables, this particular one. He did come right out and say it harmed his career and he wasn’t sure if it was worth it. I imagined it a bit like the scene in Copland where he’s drunk and he says if he had the chance again, he might not dive in and save the girl.

    Franchise Fred, i think Stallone might have just got to a point where he didn’t know what to do next. He had a few films before this that weren’t too hot (The Specialist/Assassins) and was probably seeing diminishing returns as people watched other things. It seemed like a lot of 90s stuff was trying to be the opposite of the kind of film that he built his career on, and as his style was out of vogue he needed to try something else. Copland wasn’t a big hit, so he probably wondered what the hell people wanted to see from him, if anything. Certainly, his choices after Copland were errrm, eclectic, to say the least. From Get Carter up to Spy Kids 3, the only film i thought was any good was Shade, where he did something out of the ordinary for once.

    I’m glad that people’s tastes have come back round to what Stallone does best, i thought Rambo and Rocky Balboa were terrible ideas when i heard about them, i thought Stallone had gone mental and was scraping the bottom of the barrel as hard as he could. I was proved wrong, though, and he made two of what i consider to be his very best films. I’ve enjoyed both Expendables movies (maybe against my better judgment), and look forward to his new slate of films too. I’m glad to see him doing well again, it’s gratifying to see a superstar who is humble and who seems to get a huge kick out of entertaining people. When i look back on his career, Copland is his finest acting part, and it would definitely be cool to see more of that kind of thing from him.

  27. He was indeed confused about where to go next I suppose. Cause he made it his business to brag about DAYLIGHT being his last action role for over a year and that from then on he will go more lowkey which is why he made COPLAND. He said he didn’t want to be in the spotlight anymore but then spent the next few years after this one trying to recapture the spotlight with the likes of GET CARTER and DRIVEN. I’m just glad he managed to put out at least one more genuine dramatic performance in ROCKY BALBOA before going full blown into making action movies all the time again to prove that he still “has it” or whatever.

  28. The Original... Paul

    September 18th, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Aaaaaaaargh, this is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to watch forever and haven’t gotten around to. Everybody says it’s great. I think I’d probably agree with them. I’ve been meaning to watch it forever, and never have. Damn.

    For the record I liked “Identity”. It was preposterous but it actually worked as a whodunnit. That’s so rare nowadays that I gotta give it props for that alone.

    We have another Paul on this forum now? I gotta change my nametag to Steve or something.

  29. People like to shit on Mangold, but as a journeyman or more accurately a more respectable Peter Hyams he’s rather genre prolific which always impresses me that he’s had general success, and more than anything else he seems to get very good work from his cast regardless of said genre or whatever.

    I mean I saw KATE & LEOPOLD, which actually was a quite decent “chick flick,” even if it plays on those damn tropes and shit we sorta despise about that genre. But I must admit as a red meat man, it kinda works. (Sure IDENTITY was stupid with the twist, but good cast and good work better than for something like this junk.)

    So yeah I’m intrigued with his upcoming WOLVERINE movie. I wouldn’t be shocked if its leagues better than that shitty ORIGINS: WOLVERINE movie we got. Of course I rather wished Aronofsky had made this before he had to quit over his divorce, but oh well.

    Then again, I liked KNIGHT & DAY. Yeah I’m a rebel yo around these parts yo.

  30. I also liked IDENTITY a lot. The only thing that I hated was the very last moment. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s my least favourite horrorfilm cliche.

  31. Hyams being his own cinematographer kind of puts him in a different league. I’d say Mangold is more of a John Badham, who can work successfully in any genre just like Hyams but doesn’t have the same visual flair.

  32. I also liked KNIGHT & DAY. I’m kind of a sucker for “We must run around and shoot things and shout a lot comically” movies. Plus, Tom Cruise is best when the fact that he’s out of his fucking mind is written into the character instead of hoping we don’t notice.

  33. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 18th, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Knight & Day was great! Very amusing film with some cool action, i really enjoyed it. Having only seen a few Mangold films, i’d say it was his 2nd best, after CopLand. That’s not saying much though, the only other one i’ve seen is 3.10 to Yuma, which was just ok. I’ll be looking forward to Wolverine, maybe he might have him overweight and deaf, sitting in a superhero bar lamenting his mistakes, being laughed at by all the other superior heroes.

  34. Wolverine could never go deaf because his healing factor would always fix his ruptured eardrums.

  35. Sorry, that was a typo.

    What I meant to say was, “Ha! Me, have an opinion about the real-world applications of comic strip superpowers? What am I, 12?”

  36. Mr. Majestyk – Alot of people (like Vern) hated K&D simply because of the creepyness of the Cruise character, but I thought that added to the charm. In fact in retrospect I’m kinda surprised Cruise choose to do that part after his (first) Scientology-fueled public meltdown. Though to be fair that happened at a brief time when alot of Hollywood wanted nothing to do with him. If I remember the trade reports at the time, the recently resigned Fox boss Rothman* (*cough* FIRED *cough*) apparently got Cruise and Diaz together because they were rather cheap since both were in career slumps. And to be fair, it did pay off. Tanked in America, but was Fox’s #1 moneymaker globally that year.

    Not a great movie, I doubt I’ll ever see it again but I do admire they were trying to make a ROMANCING THE STONE sort of adventure comedy, and to a degree were successful in aping parts of it.

    I don’t know about the Mangold/Badham comparison personally, if only because Mangold has never had a high like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER or WARGAMES, but (so far) not had a real loser like Hyams and Badham were capable of producing. Maybe Martin Brest is a better comparison? *shrugs*

    *=Reports claim he finally got forced out after him passing on TED (despite Seth McFarlane employed at Fox) horribly backfired for them. Thus the destructive power apparently if you say no to Seth. Explains why he was in most segments when he hosted that (horrible) SNL episode. To be fair, about as lousy as every other SNL episode but still.

  37. Oh and if I remember correctly, Rothman was behind the KNIGHT & DAY title. Go figure.

  38. Vern, hate to be a completist picky but which version of COP LAND did you see? Theatical cut or the director’s cut?

  39. Peter Hyams > James Mangold. I’d rather see OUTLAND and 2010 over anything by Mangold. Heck I’d watch his Van Damme movies over anything by Mangold for sure. I’ve seen GIRL, INTERRUPTED and WALK THE LINE both were melodramatic and dragged a lot. 3:10 TO YUMA doesn’t really have a patch on the original either. It was pretty damn boring and had some hilarious mega acting that didn’t really suit the movie at all.

    IDENTITY wasn’t anything to go crazy about but it had competent atmosphere. I think COP LAND is all I ever really liked from the guy and I don’t even like COP LAND all that much. Not to the point that I own it or anything anyway but I did see it in theaters and still do see it if it’s on TV. I won’t even bother with THE WOLVERINE because I didn’t like the X-MEN movies. I didn’t see KNIGHT & DAY so maybe I’m missing something but I think I’ve seen enough from him to know that I’m not a James Mangold fan.

  40. The Original... Paul

    September 18th, 2012 at 11:08 am

    CJ – I know what you mean about the last moment of “Identity”. It left kind of a bad taste in my mouth as well. Still enjoyed the film as a whole though.

    Dammit I swear I will at some point watch “Cop Land” and write something on it.

  41. Paul – Too bad you got movies to watch this weekend not named DREDD. ;)

  42. I don’t remember Knight and Day that well. I think I liked Tom Cruise, it was the Cameron Diaz character that I had a problem with. She reacted so idiotically to what was going on that I lost all sympathy for her or belief in her as a plausible human being.

    I believe it was the director’s cut of Cop Land I watched, on blu ray.

  43. Yeah, Tom Cruise gets a lot of hatorade for his beliefs and antics, but at the end of the day, he’s a human being with insecurities and stuff like the rest of us. I like far more of his films than I dislike, and I dug him in K&D. And I still say, even if you hate Vanilla Sky (and I generally have little use for Cameron Crowe), Cruise turns in a great performance.

    http://www.hark.com/clips/jgbljnhmbz-i-thought-we-were-talking-about-a-fucking-mask

  44. “he’s a human being with insecurities and stuff like the rest of us. ”

    Skani – If the rest of us were unbelievably wealthy and douchey and just a tad looney belonging to a racketeering cult that caters to our every whim, that yeah you would be right.

    Tom Cruise can be a terrific actor, he’s done movies I rather enjoyed. (His last MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie was great fun) but I can say that w/ a straight face because I seperate art from the artist. The dude is a lunatic. Anybody ever heard that anecdote about Christian Bale being inspired for his Patrick Bateman performance (and Bruce Wayne later too I suppose) by seeing Cruise on TV once?

    I find funny, and sad, all those stories about those poor Sea Org bastards working 24/7 as more or less poorly paid missionaries (20-50 bucks a week) signing on because they thought they were clearing the Earth of bad vibrations and evil psychiatry, but end up just fixing Cruise’s newest car.

    Anyway I won’t bash Cruise anymore needlessly. YouTube can do that for me. (Seriously that infamous video of him saying Scientologists are the only ones who would stop and save people from car wrecks is one of the more unintentionally hilarious things I’ve ever seen.)

  45. The more I think about it, the more it seems like these all-star ensemble movies are not always the best idea. At least not in a story like this one, which is trying to be more realistic. Sure, everyone in this movie is great, and they’re all great at the parts they play. But for me, anyway, it’s sort of alienating for every single face we see to be a star. They’re all acting so hard that it ruins a movie’s natural ebb and flow. There’s just too damn much charisma competing for our attention. 9 times out of 10, I think I’d prefer a few stars in key roles, and then a bunch of lower-key competent but not attention-grabbing character actors to fill out the rest. It allows you to focus more on the highs in the movie — too much charisma and fame in all the roles just means your burn out to it after awhile.

    I think this is the genesis of the curse of movies with everyone. There’s a few times it’s worked (especially if they got everyone before they were stars) but mostly it’s pretty hard to think of too many movies with *everyone* which don’t feel a little underwhelming.

  46. I know the Bale anecdote. I get it, but I don’t think Tom Cruise is some antisocial predator who enjoys hurting people, and that’s where the analogy breaks down. If that were the case, you could bag on him all you want. The fact that he’s rich and handsome and obviously deeply broken and insecure don’t seem to merit the hate.

    I think he uses positive self-talk, self-help, workaholism, and a fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy to cope with his internal conflicts. I’ve never heard of him acting “douchey,” just goofy and insecure. And he may be controlling in his marriages or whatnot, but I attribute that to his need to try to control and micro-manage his world.

  47. Subtlety, I agree with you in principle. I thought that was very much the case for Avengers. As a one-off, “that was kind of cool” event, I’ll take it. But I honestly have little interest in re-watching it, because it’s all breadth, quips, and set pieces and no depth of character development or plot.

    But I don’t think that’s the case for Cop Land. De Niro is great in his minor role. I’m not left wanting more, b/c I understand the role he plays and how it supports the story. Same w/ all those other great actors.

  48. Yeah, I like Tom Cruise. He’s damn good at what he does, i.e. being a goddamn movie star.

    He can deliver the goods acting-wise when he needs to (Magnolia, Interview With The Vampire, Jerry Maguire, Born On The Fourth Of July), but more importantly, when he needs to kick ass, he kicks that ass. I’m looking forward to Jack Reacher. Really dig this time of year, when all the mega-blockbusters have come and gone, and now all the kind of action movies that really interest me are getting their turn. Dredd, Bourne Legacy, Expendables 2, Savages, Jack Reacher. Good times.

    Also… Yeah, I’m just gonna say it… I like the occasional romantic comedy. There’s mostly shit out there, but every now and then one of them surprises me. Not Kate and Leopold, I’m afraid. That one was pretty dull, but I thought He’s Just Not That Into You was quite good. And Kissing Jessica Stein was good. And those Richard Curtis ones like Notting Hill and Love, Actually still do it for me. And speaking of Cameron Crowe, We Bought A Zoo made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  49. Specifically, with Avengers, it’s a situation where you have all these great characters, each with a life of its own, and you feel compelled to jam them into a single movie and find some plot that will allow you to string them all together.

    With Cop Land, I think it’s very different. You have a script with characters, and none of them has some pre-existent “brand.” They’re only in the movie because they’re characters who serve the plot. It happens that they did a great job of casting and brought together some amazing people. Obviously, I know it’s futile to try talking someone into liking a movie, but I do think this is an important distinction–Avengers is bloated primarily b/c of outside expectations about who has to be in the movie and what kind of mythology rules they have to obey, etc.

  50. You may be right, Mr. S. Even OCEAN’S 11, which is the modern benchmark of the “All-Star Cast Gets A Paid Vacation To Hang Out Together And Be Fabulous” movie, left a few spots open for Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, and Shaobo Qin, who weren’t exactly household names in 2001 (or now, for that matter). It might have been distracting if they’d filled those roles with Leonardo Dicaprio, Seth Green, Adam Sandler, and Jet Li.

  51. The Ocean’s movies might also fit Subtlety’s too-many-stars category. I’m told 13 is good, still haven’t watched it. I thought the first one was pretty good, and the second as awful. I thought both of them were a little to self-consciously high on their own cuteness.

  52. Seriously though, it’s not as though Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Janene Garofalo, Peter Berg, or Robert Patrick were incredibly distracting marquee names. Even then these guys were more apt to be in smaller films or in supporting roles in larger films.

    Expendables is a case where Chuck Norris and Arnold are clearly cast as “and Chuck Norris as his pop culture persona,” etc.

  53. Seeing that Jack Reacher trailer, I can’t help but imagine how awesome those lines would sound coming out of the mouth of someone who actually looked like a 6′ 5″ ex-Marine BAMF (my vote is for Matt Schulze) instead of an aging prettyboy who looks every inch his 5′ 7″ no matter what angle you shoot him from. That’s not some superficial nerd nitpick like Daniel Craig’s blond hair. I’m 5′ 7″ myself so it’s not like I’m against undersized tough guys. But Reacher’s size is half his character: People already know to be wary of him the second he arrives and fills up a doorway with his massiveness. A guy Cruise’s size would constantly be underestimated and thus develop a completely different personality than a guy who’s been naturally bigger and tougher than everyone for his entire life. I’d gladly watch a movie where Tom Cruise ran around America whooping whatever deserving ass crossed his path, but why’s he gotta be Reacher? That’s like casting Brendan Fraser as Shaft.

  54. I agree that Tom Cruise’s height is mild to moderately distracting on this one. I thought the trailer for this looked pretty good.

    And I don’t think Cruise’s height is nearly as distracting as whatever they’ve tried to do to Gordon-Levitt to make him look like young Bruce in Looper.

  55. Matthew Fox could maybe be a good Jack Reacher.

  56. Skani: Did you ever read a Reacher novel? Seriously, the fact that he’s 6′ 5″ is his defining characteristic and sets the tones for the kinds of stories he’s in. He’s larger than life, a juggernaut of pure brute force (coupled with some nearly supernatural deductive abilities) that demolishes everything in his path. That’s what he’s about. He’s not about anything else. A small Jack Reacher is like a tiny King Kong.

    The movie could still be fun taken on its own merits (If nothing else, I plan to see it for Werner Herzog, who hopefully maintains the hook hands the character had in the novel) but it’s a shame that they’ll never make a real Reacher movie now.

  57. I didn’t read the book. Matthew Fox is just a reasonably tall (not a juggernaut) actor whom I could see kicking ass.

  58. It’s really an 80s action kind of role, the kind that requires an impressive physical specimen. For instance, uou couldn’t have stuck any old normal-sized actor into, say, COMMANDO, and had it make sense that he can lug around redwood trees and uproot phonebooths. It wasn’t like his later roles, where they tried to pretend that this bulging Austrian muscleman was just your regular average joe. Every Reacher story is like COMMANDO: Everywhere he goes, somebody’s shitting his pants about the size of this gigantic motherfucker. That affects the way they treat him, which affects the way he acts, which affects the plot. A Reacher story just wouldn’t happen to Tom Cruise. He literally can’t fill Reacher’s shoes.

  59. Honestly, I’d rather have a cast of everyone in big, ridiculous spectacle films than in smaller, more realistic stories. THE AVENGERS and OCEANS movies are so patently ridiculous anyway that I don’t mind a little star oversaturation. If everyone is competing for my attention there, it’s no problem because it’s already a sensory overload. But if I’m trying to actually get into a story, I just find it a little distracting when every person we come across is a famous face trying to win an Oscar.

    Notable examples of this phenomenon: CRADLE WILL ROCK, ALL THE KING’S MEN (2006), COLD MOUNTAIN, MARS ATTACKS, THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE, GRAND CANYON, TWILIGHT (1998 Robert Benton version), TROY. All of these movies obviously range in quality from horrible to bordering on acceptable and all have obvious other flaws. But I still think that part of the problem that all these movies have is that the cast makes them top-heavy. They’re full of good performances by great actors, but too many big performances by too many big names just makes the whole thing sink under its own weight where it ironically might not with a more normal cast.

  60. Yeah, but who really fits that bill that I’m not sick of seeing in that kind of role? Other than the Rundown, I really don’t have much use for the Rock as an actor.

  61. Hmm, yeah, I have only seen a couple of those. I remember thinking Troy and Cold Mountain were okay-but-not-great, but I don’t remember being overly distracted by the star wattage. Unless you consider Jude Law, Renee Zellwegger, PSH, and Eric Bana to be these crazy distracting friggin mega-stars.

  62. That’s why I suggested Matt Schulze, who was the guy who had beef with Paul Walker in FAST 1 & 5. He’s big and burly (not 6′ 5″ but close enough) and has a real mean face, but you still like him. It’s the kind of role that should define a career for a lesser known actor, not just be yet another generic hero to add to Tom Cruise’s resume.

  63. Oh yeah, he was the douchey bad guy from Transporter. I liked him in that. Haven’t really seen him in an antihero role as opposed to tough douchey bad guy, but I’ll trust your judgment on that. Where do you need me to sign? ;-)

  64. It’s weird with Stallone, he seems to have this weird dual personality where on the one had he’s a thoughtful & smart guy who takes his acting seriously and when he does it well gains a lot of respect etc
    On the other hand he still seems to think he has to prove his tough guy credentials and get ripped, shoot bad guys and whatnot.
    It’s some kind of body image thing I think, like in interviews he really seems to feel disgusted with how he looked in Copland and ashamed that people saw him that way, no matter how much praise he gets for the performance

  65. Subtlety, here’s where I think you and I differ: The films you’re knocking seem to me more like movies with a number of mid-level stars or movies with a couple big stars and a bunch of familiar character actors. The Batman trilogy also has a fair amount of that going on, but I never found that distracting. Only time it messed with me was Ocean’s or Ex1, where I felt like I was watching the actors as the actors playing look-at-us-aren’t-we-having-fun? grab ass. This wasn’t the case with Avengers. I thought Avengers was good–just about as good as it possibly be for what it was trying to do. I just think a movie like that becomes more like a pay-per-view spectacle than a film. A fun cinema event but not something I feel much need to revisit, because there isn’t much depth to plumb.

  66. kuryakin, I agree that Stallone is an interesting case. With Schwarzenegger, I just don’t think he’s wired like Stallone. Schwarzenegger has never really been a filmmaker, nor has anyone ever viewed him as a particularly talented actor. He’s always been a bit tongue-and-cheek about things, even in the first two Terminators, arguably his best performances.

    Stallone has an affinity for damaged leads–misfits who redeem themselves through decisive acts of self-denial or up-by-the-bootstraps-fortitude. I think it’s the same reason he’s a Republican. He really believes in the whole Horatio Alger, you-can-be-anything-you-want stuff. It’s right there in his speech to his son in Rocky Balboa.

    I think with Expendables, I’m not honestly sure what motivates that. I think it’s a combination of him wanting to be on top. It matters to his ego that he’s still relevant in terms of #1 at the box office and stuff. And he feels that he is the last of a dying breed who needs to defend the “real” bad-ass hero against what he perceives as the modern, cerebral hero.

    It’s definitely interesting to speculate about.

  67. Scratch that on T1. That was not tongue-in-cheek. T2 definitely had a number of more tongue-in-cheek moments.

  68. Skani – Yes and even more so when you consider that with Stallone it’s his vulnerability that draws people to him, the sad eyes that Vern mentions in the review
    Arnie is best when he’s just this unstoppable killing machine, making quips and blowing shit up.
    But I always feel it’s that damage you mention that makes people love Stallone, certainly in the Copland, the Rocky films and even as Rambo, especially First Blood. Cobra on the other hand, shit who cares?

    Although when I was a little kid that Cobra poster was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my fucking life and I guess Stallone picks up on that macho adulation thing and enjoys it, which is fair enough

  69. I’m going to throw this out there: This argument over Cruise’s height reminds me of a geek argument from a good while back. Plenty of people made the same argument when Hugh Jackman was cast as Wolverine. Plenty of people said that he was too tall to play Wolverine, a character whose very personality was defined by his diminutive height. Now, I haven’t read the novel, so I have little skin in the game, and if I were more familiar with the book, then I might feel differently. But like Wolverine, couldn’t Tom Cruise capture the essence of the character without the height?

  70. Also maybe there’s a kind of Blues Brothers mission-from-God thing with Stallone, I remember him bitching about modern action movies being so poor that Orlando Bloom was considered an action hero.

    So perhaps he’s manfully sacrificing his gentler artistic skills for the good of Badass Cinema

  71. Holy crap, my intuition was right. Matt Schulze is also the awesome belligerent stoner in Extract!!! In both that and Transporter, he has a cool off-kilter quality.

  72. RBatty024: No. Even apart from the size thing, he couldn’t be wronger for the part. It’s just about the worst casting I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

  73. It’s so bad, it’s like if you and your buddy were having a conversation about who should play the part, and you were throwing out all these names that would work, and then one of you said, “With our luck, we’d probably get Tom Cruise” and you’d both laugh, because that is just the most absurd thing you could ever think of. Even Hollywood couldn’t be that stupid. Well, who’s laughing now?

    But on the Wolverine thing, I want to kick it back to where I said that Reacher should be a career-defining role for a lesser known actor, which is what Wolverine was for Hugh Jackman. He took the role and made it his own because he didn’t bring a lot of baggage. Even if Cruise could somehow embody Reacher despite being physically wrong for the role, he’d never be able to become Reacher because he’s stuck being Tom Cruise.

  74. Majestyk – That’s fair enough. With Tom Cruise you know what you’re going to get. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like in the Mission Impossible series. But he pretty much plays a variation of himself in each role, which I’m fine with. In that respect, I see how it might be different criticizing the casting of Cruise because of his height and personality as opposed to criticizing an unknown solely because in the case of a single physical characteristic he doesn’t exactly match up.

  75. I read the first Reacher novel recently, and I have to say that I wasn’t very impressed. I can forgive the awkward prose and the silly plot, but the main problem is that Reacher just isn’t a very interesting character. He’s one of those guys who is perfect at everything he does, so there’s never really any suspense in the story. He lacks any interesting flaws. He’s supposed to be badass and solitary, but he spends the whole book in love with a barely developed female character he’s just met for no real reason than it’s important to the plot later. They set him up as a reluctant hero, but don’t make him reluctant enough, and then oversell his involvement with a standard issue revenge motivation.

    Basically I’m saying, I don’t give a fuck if they completely change the character for the movie. Might actually make it better.

  76. Reacher’s one of those characters that gets better the more you read. There really isn’t much to him. He likes to be left alone and enjoys fucking people up that deserve it. But the more times you see him do it, some subtle character details come out that make him feel unique, such as his complete lack of soul-searching about the wrongs he’s committed and the fact that he’s never owned a car or lived in a house because he spent his whole life in the Marines. I wasn’t really sold on him after the first book either, but the over-the-topness of the climax was entertaining enough to make me plow forward. And I’m glad I did, because the books are perfect escapist fiction for people who enjoy reading descriptions of dudes getting shot in the face. There’s always a romantic interest (although I think you’re overestimating the whole love thing. Reacher only ever loved one girl. The rest were just chicks he liked a little and felt like fucking. Reacher doesn’t get attached to things) and there’s always some kind of grotesque villain that you can’t wait for Reacher to murder. Of course there’s no suspense, any more than there’s suspense in a James Bond novel: You know the good guys will win, but the fun is in watching them do it. Like with any series character who’s his creator’s bread and butter, the only danger is to the supporting cast. And the more of them who get killed off, the madder Reacher gets, and the better the payoff is. You know what you’re getting and it almost always delivers.

    As for the writing, Child is no stylist, but after reading a few of his imitators, I respect for his ability to write such macho horseshit so cleanly and straightforwardly without any pretentious noir trappings or self-consciously purple prose. I’m not defending the books as great literature (or even great thriller fiction) but they’re made with attention to consistent tone, character, and plotting, no matter how ludicrous things get. The pages always fly by and there are always one or two great “Oh shit, it’s on now” moments. He would have been a fun character to follow around for a movie or two.

  77. The Original... Paul

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Tom Cruise has been in at least two of my all-time favorite films. He’s nuts, but when he’s given the right material, he’s fantastic.

    And look at it this way – for a long time, he was stuck playing the “relatable protagonist” character, which is often something of a non-entity. But his turn in the original “Mission: Impossible” was probably the best example of this type of character I’ve ever seen – he’s absolutely electrifying in it. He’s fighting for the top spot with R J MacReady and Ellen Ripley, and he might very well win that particular battle. Seriously, I could write an essay on his portrayal of Ethan Hunt and how he uses his eyes, his observation, the way he’s totally convincing as a man who’s undergoing deep emotional stress yet is guided totally by reason… You can’t tell me that this isn’t a brilliant performance. (Well, you can, but be prepared for a thirty-page rebuttal.)

    The sequels… let’s pretend they don’t exist. I try to. (Yeah, “Mission: Impossible 3” is to me what “Prometheus” is to Asimov.) But the original film, and Cruise’s performance in it specifically, in my opinion is just fantastic.

    Anyway, going back on topic, I gotta agree with Skani on the Stallone question. Specifically with this:

    “Stallone has an affinity for damaged leads–misfits who redeem themselves through decisive acts of self-denial or up-by-the-bootstraps-fortitude. I think it’s the same reason he’s a Republican. He really believes in the whole Horatio Alger, you-can-be-anything-you-want stuff. It’s right there in his speech to his son in Rocky Balboa. I think with Expendables, I’m not honestly sure what motivates that. I think it’s a combination of him wanting to be on top. It matters to his ego that he’s still relevant in terms of #1 at the box office and stuff. And he feels that he is the last of a dying breed who needs to defend the “real” bad-ass hero against what he perceives as the modern, cerebral hero.”

    I’d take it further than that though, because I think Stallone is far, far more versatile than Arnie. Arnie does one thing and does it really well. Stallone… I think about the characters he’s played and you’ve got an aging Dirty Harry-type rebel cop in “Demolition Man”, a henpecked son in “Stop or my Mom will Shoot”, an emotionally unstable widower in “D-Tox”, a sort of proto-Nietzchien (yep, not even gonna try with the spelling on that one!) fascist superhuman in “Dredd”, a PTSD-afflicted Vietnam veteran in “First Blood”, an aspiring young boxer from the wrong side of town in “Rocky”, etc. And from Vern’s review, “Cop Land” turns out to be different still. These characters are variously emotionally stable, damaged, confident, defeated, arrogant, cringing, leaders, followers… I don’t think there’s a single definable character trait that all of these characters have in common. Hell, the only Stallone performance I can think of, good or bad, that I got absolutely nothing from was “The Expendables” (IMO Stallone’s worst performance by miles). That’s not a bad record.

  78. Mr. Subtlety: Robert Altman seemed to do well with big casts in his movies. I watched SHORT CUTS over the weekend and it is as twisted and engaging as I remember it ever being.

  79. I get Mr. Subtlety’s point. Especially in crime films, they tend to recycle the same actors a lot, often getting an actor who had an iconic lead role in one crime classic to play a small supporting role in another film (almost as if thinking that having that name in their cast will give them more credibility).

    I guess Subtlety’s trying to say that having De Niro and Liotta, who were previously seen together in much meatier performances in the classic Goodfellas, will probably result in a large part of the audience expecting their characters in Cop Land to have more screen time and a far more significant role to play in the story. It’s an expectation thing, but I find that on a second viewing those feelings and expectations usually just fade away and you can enjoy things for what they are.

    I got the same feeling from watching that (really great) trailer for Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly. My first reaction was “Ray Liotta again? And Tony Soprano too?”, but I’m sure by the time I watch the movie, if it does its job well, I’ll forget those actors’ legendary past performances and hopefully just see them as the characters the film intended them to be.

  80. Original Paul. You’re definitely right. The hero-misfit is just one of character themes in Stallone’s arsenal. I think it’s what’s so fascinating about him that he’s just about as great of a larger-than-life-action-hero as there’s ever been, but then he’s got this whole other side(s) to him.

  81. Wait, is Tom Cruise the new Nic Cage?

    And I love Copland. I also really liked Daylight, so I don’t know what this all says about me.

  82. The only good thing about Knight and Day is that Cruise is so incredibly creepy. The action direction was amongst the worst I have ever seen. Just totally dead. They also played it wrong because you are made to know that Cruise is the hero from very early on, but if they kept it as a mystery it would have been more compelling. Dude totally seemed like a sociopath to me during that film.

  83. A few years ago I could/would have written a long essay about how much I hate Tom Cruise. But the older and…I hesitate to use the word wiser…me will just say that I don’t like him. There are a lot of limited actors out there, and they all have their fans. So who am I to tell Cruise’ fans that he doesn’t really deserve the status he has?

  84. Yeah, I didn’t think K&D was a great movie either, but Cruise was solid so was enough to make it enjoyable.

  85. I’m sorry guys, but the complaints about an all-star cast being too distracting is….goofy? Really they are. Then again I think of them as part of the joy if you’re a cinemaphile, frequent movie goer and the idea that they’re actually interacting and working together whether stars or respected actors. Doesn’t that bring joy to you? Mind you that doesn’t cover up if said ensemble are given nothing to work with in a crappy movie, but otherwise what’s wrong with that?

    Oh and Mr. Majestyk, some of those “lesser names” in O11 partly I believe partly happened because alot of the original prefered choices of Clooney/Soderbergh didn’t happen. If I remember correctly, Mark Whalberg was supposed to do the Matt Damon part. Mike Myers was also meant for a part. Owen/Luke Wilson were meant to play the brothers. Hell unless I’m totally wrong, Jet Li was also meant for the Chinese character. (I could be wrong.)

    “I know the Bale anecdote. I get it, but I don’t think Tom Cruise is some antisocial predator who enjoys hurting people, and that’s where the analogy breaks down. If that were the case, you could bag on him all you want. The fact that he’s rich and handsome and obviously deeply broken and insecure don’t seem to merit the hate.”

    If I simply despised him simply because he’s rich and..well I never from a heterosexual objective perspective considered him “handsome” but nevermind…handsome, I would be hardpressed be find anybody in Hollywood to like.

    Anyway I never called him a predator or sociopath. I just called him a jerk who’s pencil aint sharpened. There is nothing wrong with not liking a guy personally while liking/admiring their work. I’m amazed some people have trouble with that concept. I still think Cruise should’ve gotten an Oscar nod for COLLATERAL, hell I thought he had it in the bag with that kickass performance.

    I’m reminded growing up as a pro wrestling fan of Shawn Michaels. From almost just about everybody who worked with him in the 1990s up to his first retirement, the dude was a diva shithead of the worst kind. (Even his Kliq “buddies” Kevin Nash and Scott Hall said he could be a total pain in the ass at times.) Yet he was an awesome wrestler that I was a fan of, even though interestingly his back injury inadvertedly was what allowed the Attitude Era in the WWF to happen. I doubt diva HBK would’ve been OK w/ those pushes for The Rock and Austin that happened partly because of the void caused by HBK’s retirement.

  86. RRA, you have my full permission to not like Tom Cruise as a person. I like him as an actor. I don’t know him personally, so only have the anecdotes I’ve observed to go on. Totally agree that Cruise’s emotional elevator doesn’t go to the top floor, but that just makes me empathize or at least hesitate before jumping on the hater bandwagon. The only actor who comes to mind whom I perceive to have a genuinely narcissistic diva thing is Edward Norton (whom I also enjoy a lot as an actor), who is known to try to co-opt the director role from his directors, and his whole business of not promoting the Hulk and making some snide comments about it (because he didn’t get his cut) then saying he wanted a sequel then saying he was glad he wasn’t in Avengers because he doesn’t want to spend a lot of his time doing those kinds of movies.

  87. I love seeing Mangold compared to non Oscar nominated filmmakers. Never knew there was such a thing as Mangold hate. If anything I thought Heavy and Walk the Line were overrated. 3:10 To Yuma is well regarded and rightly so.

    Mangold actually seems like an angry dude. Any time I’ve heard him talk he’s complaining about Hollywood. Dude, you’ve gotten six movies made. Several of them were up for major awards. Hollywood likes you.

    He also had really good advice for filmmakers. He said don’t worry about people who are against you. Worry about people trying to help you because they will help you to death!

  88. The Original... Paul

    September 19th, 2012 at 9:08 am

    RRA – all-star casts are like any other aspect of film – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, sometimes it rains. “Detachment” had a ridiculously awesome cast (where else can you get James Caan, William Petersen, Lucy Liu, Adrien Brody and Tim Blake Nelson in one film?) but most of them are unrecognisable. Which is both a positive and a negative – one of my complaints about that film is it didn’t really utilise its all-star cast as much as it maybe could have.

    Then on the flip side of that, you have films like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Murder on the Orient Express” which come across as something of an excuse for a lot of beautiful people to get together and have a ball. Which, don’t get me wrong, can be enjoyable enough (although both those films are deeply flawed IMO) but I like a bit more substance with my style.

    Personally I think they way to go is to assemble a ridiculously famous cast of actors, have them all appear for about two minutes, then kill off the whole lot of ’em before the first act of the movie is over. Then replace them with Ving Rhames. Works for me!

  89. Right, and if we’re going to complain about distracting casting, what about almost every movie Tarantino’s ever made or what about True Romance. These films are stuffed to the gills with iconic (if not all necessarily A-list) actors, but it still works. The star wattage of Cop Land is no more than any of these films. To me it’s how the cast is used and the extent to which they’re actually playing more-than-superficial/parody roles.

  90. Franchise Fred – I must say, that’s good advice.

    Skani – I have to agree w/ you on Norton. I do find it weird that (allegedly) one of his chief bitchings at Marvel was them cutting that suicide scene from his movie, one that I believe Whedon referenced in his.

    Since we’re talking actors that personally we have beef with, am I the only one who gets the impression that Shia LeBeouf is one entitled punk? (Speaking of which I saw LAWLESS. Not technically a bad movie, but remarkably very diposable. It’s one of those movies that you wonder what was the point?)

    Anyway another complaint I have is whenever actors or director or whoever groan about commercialism, at times it comes off as painfully pretentious hogwash. I believe Joss Whedon complained about not wanting to do AVENGERS 2 because of that and I’m like, dude you thought the first AVENGERS was an art movie? It was designed to sell lunch boxes, and well if its a good movie too that would be a bonus but not required. You could’ve turned it down and I don’t know, producer another short-lived cult TV show or something if that “self-pride” nonsense is all

    Paul – I don’t have any qualms at all against Lumet’s ORIENT EXPRESS movie. (OK maybe Finney’s accent is too purposely thick for my taste) But otherwise its a good, nonoffensive movie. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a movie just being good.

  91. All I can say is, big stars can be great tastes that don’t necessarily taste great together. Sometimes a big ensemble cast will work, but a lot of the time (particularly on smaller, more “realistic” movies) I feel like having one big-name star after another just makes a picture less dynamic. Every scene turns into high drama, instead of a few key points. Everyone’s personality is too big to allow any room in-between. Slightly more OK in a huge-scale ridiculous over he top movie, but even so, what everyone remembers from TRUE ROMANCE is that it has a bunch of great actors being awesome in small roles. True, but how well does that all come together as a movie? Tarantino is usually smart enough to pepper his films with big stars and fill in the rest of the parts with awesome character actors who are doing a different kind of thing. DeNiro in JACKIE BROWN is the only big exception to that, and indeed, the character ends up feeling jokey and self-referential. Which I think was kind of the point in that case, but there you go.

    It’s not always the case, certainly, but I still think it can be more of an issue than people think. Someone mentioned SHORT CUTS, I’d sort of like to say that’s not quite the same thing since it’s really a bunch of little, mostly unconnected stories instead of one big story where it just so happens that every person who gets involved is a charisma monster.

  92. It’s funny, b/c I never thought of DeNiro in Jackie Brown as goofy or self-referential. I thought that was a different kind of role for DeNiro, and he carried it off really well.

  93. It probably feels that way, post-ANALYZE THIS. It felt very specifically to me like the utter and complete opposite of his character in HEAT, a sociopathic professional who had the skill to pull off those daring heists. The guy in JACKIE BROWN more or less felt like the black sheep uncle of my family.

  94. I always felt like the DeNiro characer in JACKIE BROWN was a typical Elmore Leonard dumb smalltime crook . Like Bobby Kopas.

  95. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 1:56 am

    RRA – I like “Orient Express” myself, largely because I’m an unapologetic lover of murder mysteries of all kinds and Agatha Christie was the master of the “straight” murder mystery for the best part of half a century; but it is a very, very flawed little movie. Pretty much every actor in it is typecast, and none of them really add anything to their roles except Finney. (Sean Connery stands out in particular as being unmistakable as anybody except Sean Connery.) Having said that, the reveal at the end almost makes up for all of the movies flaws – when you see how the crime was actually committed, it’s pretty damn awesome. Oh, and the wurlitzer-style orchestral theme at the beginning and end of the movie is an unforgettable classic.

    Whedon complained about the commercialism of “Avengers 2”? Got a source for that? Everything I’ve read from him pretty much seems to suggest a view that’s pretty opposed to that one, at least as far as the first film goes. Haven’t read what he said about a potential second film but it seems odd that it would be something like that.

    (I’d move this discussion to the forums, by the way, but I’m afraid I haven’t been able to get ’em to work for the past two days. I think – I hope! – this is part of the maintenance Vern talked about in the “Something from nothing” thread. All the same, sorry to keep this off-topic.)

  96. My goodness, my work buddy and me just spent our lunch break talking about Copland today. To come home and find this review is great!

  97. First image from THE WOLVERINE’s been released:
    http://media.sfx.co.uk/files/2012/09/WOLVERINE-first-look-reveal.jpg
    Well, certainly a better depiction of the claws than that weird CG in the last film, and Logan certainly seems like he’s about to be attacked by a bunch of ninjas.

  98. Always liked Stallone in this. Even with all the great actors like De Niro, Liotta, Keitel and most of The Sopranos on board, Stallone carried this to the finish line. Watching it again, I thought it played like a western, but the hero sheriff is an anti-badass, unlike, say, John Wayne or Clint. He’s a bit of a pussy. A soft-ass. And that’s not a pun about Sly’s weight gain for the role. He just has no balls to stand up for justice until the very end.

    The movie itself is a bit unsatisfying. Too much going on with the sub-plots to really focus on what should have been the centre, which is Sly’s transformation from passive limpet to aggressive badass who rises to the situation and opens a can of whoop-ass on the corrupt cops.

    Maybe because it was such a huge 180 from Stallone being an embedded icon in badass action to taking on a low key role, that the makers didn’t trust he could carry the drama on his own, so they surround him with a cast of great character actors who they feel obligated to give sub-plots. It felt weighed down. Pity, because there is a good idea here, and Stallone has what it takes to pull off a role like this.

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