During his twenty-plus year career, which includes the role of Woody Boyd from Cheers, his Oscar-nominated turn as Larry Flynt and fighting the undead in Zombieland, Woody Harrelson has always been an actor at the top of his game, even given a few missteps (playing a transvestite prostitute in Anger Management being one example). As we wait for his portrayal of Haymitch Abernathy in the upcoming Hunger Games, Harrelson is reunited with The Messenger director Oren Moverman for their latest collaboration which is about a dirty cop.
1999. As a veteran cop on the side of corruption and living in Los Angeles, Dave Brown (Harrelson) becomes the main subject of the Rampart scandal. In the midst of this chaos, he is forced to face up to the consequences of his wayward career.
Whilst the concept of a protagonist as dirty cop may not seem original and taking its cue from Training Day and Bad Lieutenant, in the hands of L.A. Confidential writer, James Ellroy, there is a new level of interest. Moverman’s second feature is not a crime thriller, but more of a character study about a man who only knows the dark side of his profession whilst the world around him is changing and he remains the same, as Ned Beatty’s character says to the lead character.
Throughout the film, we see how despicable Dave Brown is, as he is racist, sexist and a total womaniser. Many would not like to be in his company, but Harrelson is truly astonishing as this terrifying figure as you could never know when he is going to break. Surrounding Harrelson is a ensemble of mostly cameos, including a fantastic turn by Sigourney Weaver and Ben Foster who seems to have a knack at playing dysfunctional characters. Due to being a centre-piece for Harrelson, some of the subplots feel incomplete such as Brown’s family including Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon.
Clearly indie-spirited in terms of its direction, Oren Moverman is less concern about plot and more on character, but there are moments in the story which may go through people’s heads. However, he truly knows how to move the camera as there are a number of shots that have a very dream-like quality to establish Brown’s internal struggle.
Whilst it’s not plot-driven and doesn’t have much to say in terms of its politics, Rampart is an intriguing LA-set character study about a dirty cop (played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson) who seems out of place with the world.
DIRECTOR: OREN MOVERMAN
SCREENWRITERS: OREN MOVERMAN, JAMES ELLROY
STARRING: WOODY HARRELSON, NED BEATTY, BEN FOSTER, ANNE HECHE, ICE CUBE, CYNTHIA NIXON, SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ROBIN WRIGHT, STEVE BUSCEMI, BRIE LARSON
RUNTIME: 108 MINS