This review originally appeared on the Who’s Jack website – http://www.whosjack.org/rampart-review/
Directed by Oren Moverman, Rampart is a corrupt-cop drama, starring Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown, a man whose violent policing methods on the streets of L.A are a generation out-of-date. He is having to face the realisation that he is unable to do as he pleases without fear of reprisal.
The first thing to note about Dave Brown is his cop nickname “Date-Rape”. Happily this is not for the reason you might think, as he explains to one lucky lady he picks up in bar, but he earned the nickname for killing a man he suspected of multiple date-rape offences. Dave is a man of strong, stubborn principles, considered to be a bit of a dinosaur in his brutal policing methods, working for the Rampart city precinct, which is already under investigation for accusations of racially motivated police brutality. Does the politically sensitive nature of this situation make any difference to the way he questions criminals and extracts information from them? No, not really.
Dave is a refreshing character in a film of this type, in that he doesn’t really learn and grow from his experiences and the trouble he lands himself in. He’s corrupt, he drinks too much, he womanizes, and he has two daughters from different marriages who are growing increasingly distant from him. But Rampart isn’t a learning lessons and growing better for them type of film.
It’s an enjoyable trip through the difficult world of Los Angeles policing, but does suffer a little from trying to squeeze in too many narrative sideshows to Dave’s violent modus operandi and disintegrating family unit. For example, the supporting cast is very impressive – Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, and Ice Cube, all pop up, but only Beatty’s character, an ex-journo hack seemingly trying to help Dave dig his way out of trouble, is given the amount of screen-time he deserves. The rest feel like fleeting cameos at best.
There is also a clubbing scene in which Dave lets his hair down (well, if he had any), with a few choice recreational drugs, which feels like little more than a chance for some directorial flourishes. It doesn’t add a great deal to our understanding or empathy for Woody Harrelson’s dirty cop, and just feels a little out of place in the film as a whole.
Harrelson’s performance though, is compelling enough to make up for these misgivings; always on edge, resolutely determined that he is doing the right thing, but perhaps not giving as much thought as he might to the consequences of his actions…
3 / 5