Down among the big boys

He knocked ’em for six in Rocky, but can SYLVESTER STALLONE match up to Hollywood's heavyweights in COP Land? Words: Alan Morrison

THERE ARE THOSE who reckon Sylvester Stallone has the same emotional range as a slab of meat served up in the Planet Hollywood burger bar he co-owns with other film mega-stars. Yet 2| years ago he had the film world at his feet. nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for boxing movie Rocky and. revealing an intelligence beyond his peers. also in the running for Best Original Screenplay.

Now the tide is turning in his favour again. as Stallone goes round for round against Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro in C0,) Laml. Justice has been done. because Stallone unlike. say. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an (u‘lm' who became a muscle-bound hero by fault.

It was the lure of big bucks and increasingly ludicrous sequels that sullied the reputation of the original Rm‘ky and its star. First Blood also featured a strong performance in a film with meaning: but by the time Stallone was slipping on his red headband in Rambo and firing explosive arrows at anyone with slanty eyes. that early promise had gone. Sure. he had a certain following and millions of box

office dollars poured in. but it was a case of

biceps over brain.

It‘s easy to throw bricks at a successful actor. particularly one who can command an obscene $20 million a movie. But just think what Stallone had to overcome personally to

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In the line of fire: Sylvester Stallone takes on the critics and proves his worth in Cop Land

get there: childhood poverty. two broken marriages. the pain of having an autistic son and a daughter born with a hole in her heart. How it must have stung when critics cruelly mocked his trademark slurred speech caused by an accident at birth. when a charity hospital doctor's forceps severed a facial nerve. It‘s not surprising. then. that Stallone has been drawn to larger-than-life heroes.

‘All my life. I‘ve been captivated by the scenario of saving someone at the risk of my own life.‘ he said recently. ‘My happiest day was when I broke my collarbone and had to

wear a cast. I may have broken it falling out of

'All my life I’ve been captivated by the scenario of saving someone at the risk Of my OWN life.’ Sylvester Stallone

a bunk bed. but by the time I explained it. it had happened jumping in front of a car to save a Girl Scout.‘

Until Cop Lam! came along. Stallone was in danger of passing the age of 50 stuck in a creative rut. He plays a loser sheriff in a New Jersey town populated by New York City cops. whose discovery of a massive police corruption scam gives him his once-in-a- lifetime shot at glory.

‘I always have faith that. if someone does something once. then they can't have forgotten it it’s like riding a bicycle.’ says (‘up Land‘s writer-director James Marigold. ‘Sly had got

truly bored making those action films. The first night we met he said he wanted to be scared again. He wanted to wake up on a morning that he was shooting and not be sure he could do the work. instead of feeling like he could sleepwalk through the part.‘

Perhaps that fear is what gives Stallone an edge in (‘np [11m]. btit there is also a personal attachment to the character of Freddie l-leflin. Like him. here was a man with physical imperfections (Freddie is deaf in one car) who is looked down on by his colleagues. Stallone stopped exercising and put on two stones in weight. creating a sluggish, self- doubting hero. In his big scenes with Keitel (the cop leader in town) and De Niro (an internal affairs investigator). he can‘t hold eye contact. But any sense of intimidation is only on the side of the character. not the actor.

‘l‘m still a stereotype. I always will be.‘ Stallone has said. ‘But at least I‘d like to be a versatile stereotype . . . I think it‘s very important to look in the mirror and actually see the person that‘s staring back at you.‘

At the end of (up Land. Freddie gazes over at the skyline of New York. self-respect replacing the longing and sense of failure that used to be in his eyes. There's no need for Rocky-style fanfares. The sheriff set himself a challenge. stood tip against the big boys. silenced his critics. And so does Stallone.

Cop Land goes on general release on Fri 5 Dec.