The movie Cop Land with Sylvester Stallone has always been a favorite of mine. Not because of the story, though I love that too- but because the character played by Sylvester Stallone is not at all what you’d expect.
In this movie Sylvester Stallone plays Freddy, a police officer who doesn’t have a lot of confidence in himself. This guy is completely taken advantage of by fellow ‘fancy’ neighboring New York City cops. Freddy is the town sheriff of a place where the corrupt and powerful city cops can hang out and do as they please. The town is a front for mob connections and corruption, and Freddy’s job is to look the other way.
It is the character of Freddie that Sylvester Stallone plays that captivates me. Like his character, Stallone completely unhinged his ego for the role. He gained 40 lbs for the part. For someone like Stallone, that is quite an achievement~ He had to let go of his muscled body super hero image.
The character Freddie is someone who many people despise- for his weakness, his lack of ambition to ‘rise in the world’, and his lack of toughness. His character is partially deaf, engulfed in passivity, and has given up ever being or making a change in his environment. He’s been well trained to keep his eyes to the ground and not cause any waves. He’s easy to get one over on, and he’s easy to abuse. He doesn’t let much bother him because he chooses to go along with everyone’s expectations of him.
But when things get out of hand, Freddy wakes up and finds his inner ‘cop.’
Back to why I’m writing this. It is the persona of Freddie that captivates my imagination. Freddie has no pretence. He doesn’t try to be tough. He doesn’t try to pretend he is smart. He knows he isn’t in the ‘in’ police group, so he hangs around in the back round, listening and observing, but not pretending to think he is a part of their closed world. He does his job and doesn’t pretend to be the ‘big’ man. He is an outsider but is at peace with it.
And while many despise a character like that, I am so intrigued. Could I ever completely let go of ego like that, completely let go of image, completely let go of worrying about saying the ‘right’ thing at the right time to the right people. Could I ever just be an outsider, not worry about fitting in, and be completely OK with just being me?
I’m not talking about the part of Freddie that is pushed around and unambitious. I’m talking about the part of Freddie who accepts himself the way he is. He can never be a big city cop because of his deafness, but he is at peace. And he is kind, caring, and seems to be so very grateful for whatever good comes his way. Meanwhile, if the ‘important’ in the world, (the corrupted officials) treat him like an outsider, he doesn’t try to force his way onto them.
Sylvester Stallone said he had to become the part, which meant he started acting like the character even when he wasn’t filming. When the film crew got together and hung out, he stayed out of the center, and hung around on the fringes like his character.
He noticed that now that he was ‘fat’- that people didn’t notice him anymore- that they looked right through him as if he was of so little consequence that he wasn’t worth seeing.
But the character of Freddie, in the movie, is at peace with this. He is at peace with whatever life throws at him. He doesn’t worry if he is not respected, not impressive, not important. That is, until it involves injustice for a police officer who will be killed if Freddie doesn’t act. In the end, Freddie is still Freddie, but now he ‘knows’ he is all the things the impressive New York cops are- minus the corruption. He just doesn’t have to prove it with ego every day. Maybe there is still too much of Stallone in all of us, and not enough of Freddie. Maybe I still have a lot to learn.
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