Movie Review – Rampart (2011)

Director: Oren Moverman

Stars: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Robin Wright, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche

In the sun-drenched days and moonlit nights of L.A. ‘Date Rape’ Dave Brown (Harrelson) is a cop on a mission. With little regard to the people he’s sworn to serve and protect he lives by his own rules, expecting others to fall in line. After he’s caught on camera beating a civilian he’s put under pressure to retire, and suffers from paranoia as certain people in the department seem to be tightening a web around him with regards to a crime from his past that has still gone unresolved.

Rampart is the story of a bad cop that hasn’t been corrupted. He’s a bad cop because, well, that’s the way he is. In his view of the world he is in the right and everyone else can simply adapt to him. In an unflinching performance, Harrelson gives a complex insight into the mind of a man who is a really bad guy. He’s controlling, selfish, manipulative, and uses his position to abuse those less fortunate. The reason he is known as ‘Date Rape’ is because of an incident in his past where he is alleged to have killed a rapist, but the moniker itself leads to some dark comedic moments. There’s a lot of black comedy here, and a lot of tension as Dave’s paranoia runs rampant and he starts to suspect everyone of conspiring against when really it’s his own actions that have led him to this place.

That’s probably his biggest flaw, that he cannot accept he is the one to blame when things eventually catch up to him.

It’s a pretty interesting character study and it’s unusual to get a perspective on a cop that’s just bad because that’s the way he is, rather than having been corrupted by the system. I enjoyed watching the movie for the most part but I didn’t like the ending. It felt anticlimactic and the previous 90-odd minutes felt like the were building towards something, yet it ends with a whisper. At time the directing style was overt and in your face, and it seemed as though the director was showing off, rather than letting the film breathe and speak for itself, with the exception of one scene in a club where the soundtrack ramped up into an electrified buzz and this sequence had a hazy, different feeling that really stood out from the rest of the film.

I’m hesitant to recommend this because while I found it easy to watch, there’s not much it left me with. I don’t feel like musing on the themes of the movie and although I would categorise this movie as a character study I think the open, ambiguous ending does it a disservice. I can assume what will happen to him but I would rather have seen it play out properly. Furthermore, there are parts of the film that are slow, and ultimately don’t seem to add much to proceedings. So I think it’s worth watching if you like stories about corrupt cops and/or are a big fan of Woody Harrelson.


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