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Cop | Blu-ray Review

James B. Harris CopProducer and director James B. Harris has a limited yet incredibly prolific filmography featuring a number of interesting items. Initially a producer for Stanley Kubrick, he eventually built up a methodical resume of his own directorial efforts, ranging from 1965’s The Bedford Incident starring Sidney Poitier to 1993’s Boiling Point with Wesley Snipes. More often than not flaunting a gritty, neo-noir aesthetic, his hardboiled filmography marks him as a perpetually unacknowledged American auteur. In the 1980s, he’d unleash two film starring James Woods, the latter being 1988’s Cop, an adaptation of James Ellroy’s Blood on the Moon (and was the first cinematic variation of the famed author). The pulpy narrative features Woods at his demoralizing best and is an unsung genre classic.

Maverick police detective Lloyd Hopkins (Woods) is the first to arrive on a Hollywood murder scene where a woman has been brutally killed. Begging to be assigned the case, he links it to a series of unsolved murders in the area from the last decade. Unfortunately, he doesn’t react well to authority, leading Captain Fred Gaffney (Raymond J. Barry) to eventually strip him of his badge and gun when his behavior gets out of line. But Hopkins has recently stumbled onto the key of the investigation, involving the past of an emotionally distressed poet (Lesley Ann Warren).

Woods’ personification of unhinged law enforcement recalls a variety of noir brethren, and is a sort of stepping stone to the depravity of other ungovernable contemporaries, like the men of Bad Lieutenant, except Lloyd Hopkins is clearly as obsessed with particularities of his profession as he with the wanton pleasure seeking byproduct it affords him. We’re told he’s attracted to cases involving beat up, abused women, though the impetus behind this isn’t always clear, creating a sordid tension which never relents.

Ellroy excels at rendering the underbelly of Los Angeles, and Cop is filled with a variety of bizarre supporting characters, usually women involved in curious interaction with Woods. The interdepartmental law enforcement drama adds to his character’s reputation as a rebel without a cause sort, sponsored (and vouched for) by mentor Charles Durning, his only defense against a straight-laced captain (an aloof Raymond J. Barry). Squabbles between alternating methods of conduct are discussed via a troubling trend of religiously oriented cops in one of the narrative’s many tangential layers.

Jan McGill hardly registers as Hopkins’ dissatisfied wife, absconding with their child off-screen as he begins to seduce his potential witnesses, beginning with Randi Brooks as a Los Angeles stereotype of an ex-actress model turned high class escort. But it’s the late staged interplay between Woods and Lesley Ann Warren as a feminist, lesbian poet where Cop really gets interesting. As annoyed as he is attracted to her, Woods delivers on an intriguing seduction scene which eventually goes awry. Unfortunately, the narrative also gets a bit a preposterous as Warren becomes the central figure in a ludicrous plot involving her school days and a tragic incident from the period while Cop becomes localized in particular neighborhoods of Silver Lake. Increasingly grisly murders and a purposefully offbeat central performance make this a definite genre standout, even considering a variety of notable lead performances from Woods in the same period.

Disc Review:

This Kino Lorber Studio Classics release arrives in 1.85:1, with picture and sound quality serviceable. The title would be the last feature DP credit for Steve Dubin, who would eventually turn to producing visual effects and directing television, but Cop captures a particular late 80s Los Angeles vibe without ever feeling particularly dated as a product specific to the period. James B. Harris is on hand to provide audio commentary.

Final Thoughts:

With a deliriously great final moment, (reminiscent of Andrew Dominik’s later title Killing Them Softly, 2012), Cop is an excellent Los Angeles neo-noir. Fans of the three main James (Harris, Woods, Ellroy) should definitely take note (and hopefully we can see Harris’ long awaited return with his rumored adaptation of Philippe Lemaitre’s Alex).

Film Review: ★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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