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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Stallone: 3-Film Collection'
(Sylvester Stallone, Peter Berg, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2012 / LGF)

Overview: In 'Cop Land,' action star extraordinaire Sylvester Stallone headlines James Mangold's Director's Cut of this edgy crime thriller that explodes with an all-star cast. In 'Rambo: First Blood,' he never fought a battle he couldn't win; except the conflict raging within his own soul. And in one of Stallone's most heroic thrillers, 'Lock Up,' he gives a huge performance as Leone, a convict driven to break his own cherished code by a warden who will stop at nothing to get him.

DVD Verdict: Taking the HUGE films one at a time, 'Rambo: First Blood' is about a Vietnam vet named John Rambo who comes to a small Washington state town (actually British Columbia) to find the last surviving comrade from his elite Green Beret unit. When he discovers that he too is dead, Rambo makes his way into town for a bite to eat and instead winds up being arrested by the hick local sheriff (Brian Dennehy). While in custody, Rambo is abused by the locals but manages to escape sparking an all out manhunt.

While not at all a fan of this film's immediate sequel, one must concede that the original is a particularly fine film with a surprising courage and insight. Dennehy's sheriff could easily have been a one note villain ala SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, but he instead gives him an unexpected depth and some sympathy. While the initial mistake is his, things become as bad as they do because of incompetent or vicious subordinants who do not follow his orders. The sheriff is to be faulted for not allowing Rambo's commander to peacefully resolve things by "letting it go" but his response does have some validity as well.

In 'Lock Up', the story revolves around inmate Frank Leone (Stallone). He is on a visitation with his wife, and almost done with his prison sentence. However, one night two guards from a different prison transport him to another prison and as he gets out of the transportation truck, he sees Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland). Drumgoole is the reason why Frank is in prison. Drumgoole was the one behind getting Frank transferred, so he could personally put him through hell and back.

But, and as much as this is serious drama "fun" for the most part, the one main problem is the "relationship" between Leone and Drumgoole (aka the key players in the film). To my mind, and every time I watch it, it is so far-fetched as to be laughable. The Warden explicitly orders both the physical and emotional torture of Leone time and time again, to the point where I could not believe that even the most sadistic of Wardens could ever get away with something like that. Sutherland's character is turned into little more than a grinning, glaring, Nazi-like figure with no other dimensions.

In the third film, the more dramatic 'Cop Land', we get a plot that centers on the town of Garrison. And a police officer (and as it turns out, whole community) that seems to have a bit of a shady past. All it takes is a little incident on the force to finally spur Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone) into action to set things right by exposing the corruption.

At face value, that cop-conspiracy plot isn't all that terrible if you can get into that kind of stuff. The glaring problem, however, is this: an astounding lack of interesting characters. For the plot of the movie to really suck viewers in, you have to be able to hate the bad guys and at least root for the good guys. I was completely ambivalent to both causes. The corrupt cops are completely two-dimensional (no interesting side plots or character quandaries to make you think), and that is more that can be said about Stallone's Heflin, who is easily one of the most uninspiring "heroes" I've ever seen up on screen!

Thus, with a cast of decent characters this could have been a much better overall effort. As it were, though, acting talents such as Stallone, Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, and Robert Patrick were completely wasted by a script that didn't allow them to develop. For an alternative, I would highly recommend Clint Eastwood's 'Mystic River.' Roughly in the same genre as 'Cop Land,' but oh so much more interesting. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

www.LGF.com





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