Woody Harrelson continues to evolve as an actor. The man knows how to challenge himself and once again paints a very vivid portrait of a complicated man.
In 1999, the LAPD were in the wake of one of their biggest scandals in department history. It was revealed that there was widespread corruption within the LAPD’s Rampart division.
The scandal was enshrined in pop culture because it was directly linked to two powerful hip-hop moguls.
Convicted felon Marion “Suge” Knight had at least three police officers on his payroll as well as three others were linked to the drive-by murder of recording artist Notorious BIG.
The film takes place just after the scandal as 24-year LAPD veteran “Date Rape” Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is hauled in after he is videotaped clubbing a man after motor vehicle crash.
Dave has quite the history as killed a rapist earlier in his career which got him his nickname. The LAPD sees Dave Brown as a way to get the scandal heat off them. But Dave isn’t going to stand for it.
The movie is based on the novel by James Ellroy who also gave us “LA Confidential”, “Dark Blue”, “Street Kings” and “The Black Dahlia”. Ellroy has had some rotten luck with his books being turned into films.
The only successful adaptation is “LA Confidential” which helped Kim Basinger win her Oscar and launch the careers of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. James has also taken his shot at screenplays with the best of the bunch being the critically acclaimed “Dark Blue” starring Kurt Russell. The good news is that “Rampart” is another great Ellroy adaptation.
Harrelson reunites with his “The Messenger” director Oren Moverman for this film. The movie got Woody Harrelson his second Oscar nomination in 2009. Overman has a feel of how to shoot Woody and where to put the camera. “Rampart” has a very loose style to it. Some of my favorite scenes are the shots of Woody just driving around in his squad car with the chaos that is LA happening behind him. This really accents the detached feelings boiling inside this guy who is on the edge.
I love how the film shows Dave Brown’s isolation. His hopelessly flawed female companion (Robin Wright), his ignored wife (Anne Heche) and even his two distant daughters. They all want something from Dave but they don’t want Dave.
Dave’s only pedestal in his deteriorating life is his job and after Rampart and his abuse charges he might lose that too.
The deeper Dave dives the better the film and when the movie tagline is “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen” you know we are in for one hell of a ride!
The movie like 2009’s “The Messenger” is a strong character study and Harrelson relishes in being able to play a role with lots and lots of blood-soaked meat. You know he is smiling with glee in the inside when he’s playing this guy but it never shows. This performance is flawless.
The film is also filled with a lot of great smaller roles. You have politician Steve Buscemi, LAPD rep Sigourney Weaver, wheelchair bum Ben Foster, DEA investigator Ice Cube. This is quite the cast and they all have something to bring to Woody’s Dave Brown. What I am saying is that even the minor roles are fun.
The only flaw the movie has is the ending. So many unanswered questions and really only one resolution. It feels like, pardon the pun, a cop-out. What do u think should have been the resolution for Dear old Dave?
The movie definitely belongs in the same category as “Training Day” and “Bad Lieutenant” this is another great corrupt cop story. And another astounding performance for Harrelson.
4.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer