DVD Review - Rampart

Woody Harrelson is Officer Dave Brown in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1999. He's been a cop for 24 years. Currently, he's under investigation for police brutality charges. Co-written by James Ellroy who's best known for authoring the book on which the film L.A. Confidential (1997) is based, this movie refers to the 1990s Rampart scandal, which was one of the biggest cases of police misconduct ever documented. The LAPD's misconduct included unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of false evidence, framing of suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury and covering up evidence. Officer Brown does several of these things in the course of this movie.

Writer-director Oren Moverman fails to help us understand why he does these things beyond a vague sense of self-righteousness. If you've seen the TV series The Shield, you'll get a better understanding. Moverman's film just wants to show this guy at the end of his rope. He has a family who is also at the end of its rope and want nothing to do with him. It's his scenes with his daughters that are the most resonant.

Moverman would rather show Officer Brown getting drunk and having sex with random women. One whom Brown revisits is Linda Fentress, played by Robin Wright. She and Harrelson have great chemistry. Whether the two are loving or hating each other, of which they do both, you believe them. Harrelson also bounces off the rest of the cast extremely well, including Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Ned Beatty and Ice Cube.

As with Moverman's previous film The Messenger, which also starred Harrelson, this film is filled with great acting and singularly great moments that fully realize that great acting, but Moverman never leaves you with much. One example is a scene that puts Harrelson at odds with Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi. Moverman places the camera in the middle of the imaginary triangle connecting the three actors. The camera is slowly spun in circles as if on a merry-go-round. Moverman keeps the camera moving for full 360-degree turns over and over.

It's less dizzying and more maddening. Yet, Harrelson and his co-stars are still effective. Unfortunately, whether Officer Brown is charged or prosecuted for his alleged crimes is never resolved. It's almost as if Moverman doesn't care about the Rampart scandal. He just wants it as a background or as a phantom in the periphery. Harrelson is more than effective in all of his scenes though. He occasionally will showboat, as he screams and splashes in a swimming pool. Other times, he's quietly heartbreaking as when he has to reveal the awful truth to his daughters. You get the sense that Harrelson cares about Rampart, but there's only so far his caring can go.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


  1. The movie doesn't really hold up all that well considering how slow moving and uneventful it is, but Harrelson is a powerhouse with this performance and I'm really bummed to see that he didn't get that Oscar nomination this year. Oh well. Nice review Marlon.


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