Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Ned Beatty, Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube
Directed by Oren Moverman (The Messenger)
Nobody plays scumbag quite as effectively as Woody Harrelson. In Rampart, he plays a monstrous one. He is Los Angeles Police Department Officer Dave Brown, a miserable, hard-nosed, villainous figure, scary because we know that he probably represented real LAPD officers in the past.
The movie takes place in the late 1990s amidst the "Rampart Scandal" that shook the country and uncovered an entire underworld of corruption and wrong-doing within the LAPD. Officer Brown is caught on tape beating a citizen who just struck his police vehicle and tried to flee the scene. It would be perhaps the least-offensive thing Officer Brown would do during the course of this film.
The film is a character study, in which Officer Brown represents the "old guard" of policemen during that time. Things are changing and getting more political. The spotlight of the media has never shown so bright. Officer Brown means to stare this spotlight dead-on, unflinching.
The media circus that follows his taped beating leads his superiors to ask for his badge, which in turn leads to them investigating the officer's practices in the field. Like a rock, Officer Brown intends to weather the storm that is brewing around him, unable and unwilling to take part in it.
Rampart is a brilliantly acted film that never gives you a reason to root for the villain at its center. There are a multitude of cameos from well-known actors and actresses, some of which are on-screen only fleetingly. Harrelson may not have showcased a wide range of acting prowess in the past, but this character is right in his sweet spot.
Shot with a gritty authenticity, Rampart is a very uncomfortable film to sit through. Touches of humor are woven in to the script, injecting the film with some much needed lightness of spirit from time to time. Oren Moverman is a name to remember, as the co-writer and director of this film, he has delivered a worthy follow-up to the critically-applauded 2009 film, The Messenger.
Uncomfortable but engaging, Rampart is perhaps the most raw and realistic portrayal I've ever seen of a dirty cop attempting to buck the system. It offers no real answers, and strangely little insight or suggestion as to why people like Officer Brown do what they do. They are simply a product of a corrupt system, who are now being betrayed by the very powers that they served to protect.
The ending will leave many unsatisfied, but Rampart never promised a solution in the first place. There is a character arc, but for Officer Brown, he arrives like we found him: Cold, unfeeling, and determined to survive.
Opens locally Friday, March 9th, 2012
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