Release Date: Feb. 24, 2012
Running Time: 107 minutes
Born survivor? Master of self-destruction? It’s impossible to work out whether the dirty cop played by Woody Harrelson in Rampart is the most intelligent man in the Los Angeles Police Department or the dumbest. One minute he’s doing something to jeopardize his job, the next he’s talking his way out trouble. This vicious circle goes on and on in Rampart, a surprisingly slow and inert drama that reunites Harrelson with Oren Moverman, the director of his deeply affecting military drama, The Messenger (his costar Ben Foster also shows up briefly, as do Ice Cube, Steve Buscemi, and Sigourney Weaver). Set in the 1990s, Harrelson’s Dave Brown is already under scrutiny as part of the investigation into the Rampart scandal of widespread corruption in that division of the LAPD. He 's also earned the nickname “Date-Rape” Dave as a result of a crime he stopped in bloody fashion. When Brown commits an act of police brutality, he spends the rest of Rampart trying to save himself from being fired and/or tossed in jail. Written by Moverman and acclaimed novelist James Ellroy, Rampart positions Brown as a symbol of all that’s wrong with the LAPD. He’s antagonistic, violent, dishonest, and racially insensitive. Yes, Brown is just like every corrupt cop we’ve seen in the likes of Internal Affairs, Bad Lieutenant andTraining Day. What separates Brown from the others, though, is Harrelson’s ferocity. He’s a pit-bull in a police uniform, but the poise and arrogance he lends Brown doesn’t just comes from the badge he hides behind. He channels Brown’s personal and professional anger and frustration into a job that can numb the soul. However street smart Harrelson makes Brown, Rampart undermines Harrelson at every possible turn. Brown always inexplicably digs a deeper hole for himself—we know it, he knows it, Rampart knows it. Does Brown want to be caught? That’s not the impression Rampart gives us at the start of Brown’s descent, so his actions seem incongruous to his attempts to worm his way of trouble. Rampart also unnecessarily complicates Brown’s family life to the point it becomes a distraction. Perhaps it’s an effort to humanize Brown. To that extent, Rampart works. We can separate the cop who beats a drug addict from the father struggling to connect with his estranged daughter. Unfortunately, Rampart never goes out of its way to explain why Brown’s downward spiral is our concern.
Aired: Feb. 23, 2012
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