My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three police films from different decades.


The New Centurions (1972)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Certainly one of the best films ever made about the police, THE NEW CENTURIONS takes a grounded, day to day approach to its portrayal of the men in blue. It’s a predecessor to END OF WATCH but even less sensationalized, with no conventional “bad guy”, just the struggles of the work. I responded well to its episodic structure and would love to create a film like this one day (it actually touched on some plot points I’ve been playing with for a planned cop trilogy of films).

Stacy Keach and George C. Scott are terrific in the lead roles. Scott is more subdued and his last scene in the picture is heartbreaking. Keach, an actor I haven’t appreciated enough, carefully portrays a man whose life slowly gets swallowed up by his police work. The actor handles his most difficult scenes with grace and intelligence.

The only thing that harms THE NEW CENTURIONS is its score and moments where the movie almost feels like SHAFT or DIRTY HARRY. These stylized choices of the time unfortunately date the film and hold it back from being the definitive police film.

Watched on Tubi.


Cop Land (1997)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Rewatching films from the 90s reminds me that these were the glory days for ensemble casts. Cop Land is one of those movies that would be worth watching just for the actors: Keitel, De Niro, Liotta, and Stallone. But wait, there’s more: John Spencer, Peter Berg, Robert Patrick,
Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, and the list goes on. Nearly every speaking part is played by a name or a recognizable face.

Thankfully, Cop Land doesn’t just have a fine cast but also a solid script and good direction. It’s not profound or genre defining but it is a sturdy, gritty crime film. Compared to today’s entries in the genre, it is refreshingly unpretentious. It knows what it is and that it has a job to do. The highlight of the film is Sylvester Stallone who truly delivers an impressive against-type performance. Recognized by critics at the time but not nearly praised enough, it would take more than two decades for Stallone to be this good again (hint hint: he is right now on Tulsa King).

The mystery of Cop Land is what happened to director James Mangold? After writing and directing this promising film and a couple other decent pictures, he got sucked into the Hollywood machine and is now just another franchise button pusher. I suppose it happens to nine of ten talented young directors but it’s still a damn shame.

Watched on HBO Max.


Colors (1988)

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I re-watched COLORS, wondering where it falls in my estimation of police films. Dennis Hopper’s cop drama has some interesting ambitions but overall fails to reach them.

Its major problem is that it tries to do too much and ends up spreading itself thin. Is it about gang lifestyle? Yes. Is it a story about racial tensions in America? Yes. Is it a story of two cops learning to be partners? Yes. COLORS attempts to cover all this and more, short-changing all of its aims. The result is a disjointed film that never finds its focus and doesn’t deliver the impact Hopper clearly intended, emotionally or intellectually.

Even Robert Duvall (the reason to watch the film) can’t save this though he does have one incredible scene. The moment when he comes into the gym and compares his relationship with Sean Penn to a girlfriend/wife you argue with all the time resonated with me on a personal level. I’ll tuck that one away and it was worth watching this again just for that.

Watched on HBO Max.