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Memphis Flyer Duty Calls

By Susan Ellis

AUGUST 25, 1997:  There's been so much hype surrounding Sylvester Stallone's 40-pound weight gain for his part in Cop Land you would think that somewhere down the line we'll be voting for either the fat-Stallone or the muscled-Stallone postal stamp. But what about the movie? It's a fine movie, and, yes, Stallone does pull his weight among his more respected peers Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta.

Written and directed by James Mangold (Heavy), Cop Land is set in Garrison, New Jersey, just over the George Washington Bridge from New York City. Garrison is populated by the NYPD's most questionable, with the powerful, mob-bought Ray Donlan (Keitel) as its unofficial mayor. Among Ray's minions are his main henchman Jack Rucker (Robert Patrick) and the coke-fried Gary "Figs" Figgis (Liotta), who was brought into the inner circle after his partner died in an incident that brought Internal Affairs sniffing around. Watching over Ray's little slice of paradise is Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone), a wannabe cop who was kept from the big-city force by a bum ear. With a badge that is little more than a vanity plate, Freddy's main duty is turning a blind eye to the shady dealings of Garrison's most prominent citizens.

The trouble begins when Ray's nephew Murray "Super Boy" Babitch (Michael Rappaport) is sideswiped on his way over the George Washington Bridge. Mistakenly believing that one of the passengers has a gun, Murray shoots, killing both of the African-American men in the car. The boys from Garrison quickly arrive, and one of them tries to plant a gun in front of the unbelieving eyes of the paramedics. As a fight breaks out, Ray announces that Murray has jumped to his death.

The situation on the bridge brings Internal Affairs officer Moe Tilden (De Niro) to Garrison to investigate. With no jurisdiction in New Jersey, Moe visits Freddy. He knows that Murray isn't dead and he knows that Freddy knows it. He then gives Freddy a frightening offer -- to act as law enforcement and help him bring in the men that have the sheriff wrapped around their fingers.

While Cop Land is nothing too astounding, it is a good, solid drama, with a climactic scene that's worth the admission alone. Mangold's team of cops is a complicated bunch. They're all on the take, but each operates by his own set of values. What's sacred to one is easily violated by another. The tension is thick as each man watches his own back. Keitel's Ray is perhaps the least complex, signaling with the set of his jaw that he is pure menace, whereas Liotta's Gary is a rambling mess with wavering loyalties.

Freddy, on the other hand, is just plain stuck, complacently dealing with his lot in life. The extra pounds Stallone put on serve him well for this part. In his past roles, his physique, along with his droopy-lidded, thick-tongued manner, has made him untouchably macho. With that taken away, Stallone is vulnerable. He stoops over his gut and walks uncomfortably -- a nice take for a character who's spent his life being pushed around. No matter how many shots of him staring dreamily over at New York or how many shots of him blanking out to a stuck-in-a-rut Bruce Springsteen song, it's the way in which he moves that nails this part for him. And while this role is being set forth as proof that Stallone is a serious actor, it'll be interesting to see if he can maintain this momentum sans gut. -- Susan Ellis

This summer's previous science-fiction flick with a stellar backdrop, Contact, had audiences all over the country staring at the sky with a sense of childlike awe and wonder. Event Horizon will have any viewers who boldly manage to watch the film through their hands screaming bloody murder and sleeping with their lights on.

This futuristic thriller tracks a rescue team's top-secret efforts to recover the crew and logs of a lost ship, the Event Horizon, whose confidential mission included warping space-time to travel to Proxima Centauri. Sam Neill plays the depressed, widowed Dr. Weir, the designer of the ill-fated ship, who tags along with a tightly knit band of interplanetary EMTs who hope to discover why the ship disappeared seven years ago -- and why it's back. Lawrence Fishburne gives a respectable performance as their captain, while Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson complement the ensemble.

As one might expect, the mission does not go as planned, people are tense, things explode, techno-gizmos break, the walls start bleeding, a guy gets sucked into a dimensional vortex, the ship is alive -- you know, the usual.

Despite the impressive names in the cast, good acting is not the focus of this film. Event Horizon is a terrifying, bloody, startling, traumatizing, psychological horror movie. The soundtrack alone, a delightfully stereotypical goose-bump-giver by Michael Kamen, has the audience scared before the opening credits finish rolling. Though the film does not supply any innovation -- most of the truly shocking moments are still delivered via jarring loud noise -- the hallucinations of the crew add a sickening intensity to the same old tricks.

The most disturbing quality of this film is its ability to combine cheap, gasp-inducing thrills with truly disturbing, horrific gore. While some movies are scary because they make viewers jump at just the right time without showing anything, and some movies are disgusting and completely unscary because of their unsuspenseful way of showing every Silly Putty scar and fake blood effect, this movie does both. You get the bejeezus scared out of you time and time again, but just when you think they'll cut away to another scene, you'll get to watch a sickening abuse of flesh. The old "tell me when it's over" trick doesn't fly here. You'd miss the last 55 minutes of the movie.

For those who do not have an affinity for terror, stay home. However, if by chance you find yourself trapped in this flick, you will be pleased by the infrequent, yet exceedingly well-timed injections of humor into the script. The jokes are few, but funny. On the other hand, if nausea and fright are your bag, this is the one you've been waiting for. At least, that's what I gathered by watching through my second and third fingers. -- Elizabeth Lemond

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