“Because of the cast,” James Mangold told Vulture, “I think Miramax saw the potential in the movie. [‘Cop Land’] as high as that, but the scores were more like scores for an art film. He was cast so aggressively that he now had to perform in a way that justifies the cast.”
“Cop Land” is really more of a character drama and modern westSylvester Stallone’s protagonist, Sheriff Freddy Heflin, as someone whose life takes a different direction than he had hoped after saving a drowning woman and losing her hearing in one ear. Instead of joining the NYPD as he’s always dreamed of, Freddy is left to head a town that dirty cops have set up as their own vigilante outpost outside the Home Office. Harvey Keitel’s senior officer pays homage to Ray Donlan, but even in 1997, the movie didn’t hesitate to show how humble Ray and the likes were to save their own skins. It’s not a crowd-pleasing moment when Ray’s nephew shoots two unarmed Black men and his followers try to plant evidence on them.
It wasn’t just the Weinsteins who had unrealistic expectations for “Cop Land.” Mangold also noted how the cast “magnified the movie” for audiences:
“One of the hard things for me back then was that I imagined the lead as someone you hadn’t heard of before so it would be less Hollywood for them to become a hero. I was grateful for the opportunity. Frankly, I also got excited about working and working with some of these amazing people. But the story itself. It was a story of loss, sadness, hatred and grief. I think it was a harder sell.”