Tragic characters never fail to intrigue viewers, and one that we’ve come to know well on-screen is that of the corrupt cop. Rampart, directed by Oren Moverman, who previously directed the Messenger, is a dark character study of a brand of renegade cop nearing extinction. Dave “Date-rape” Brown, played by Woody Harrelson, is at the center of his own personal hell crumbling around him, and Moverman shows audiences the end of the rope for the shoot-first-think-later, dirty LAPD officer.
The cinematography is gritty, filmed with a rough simplicity that compliments the central character. The camera gets very intimate, closing in on the emotions of “Date-rape” Dave as he falls deeper into the hole. In most films about corrupt cops, there are forces pitted against each other, but here the corrupt cop is facing himself; he’s his own worst enemy and that is where the script wonderfully differs from other films about the subject.
Woody Harrelson, playing “Date-rape” Dave Brown, is in fine form as an individual decaying through his self-destructive nature, quietly, slowly going down without any glorious moments to look back on. Brown is a chronic racist, compulsive womanizer, and quick to pull the trigger for dirty dough. Harrelson sports a grim look, contemplating the cause of his agony, trying to accept the painful fact that he can’t change. Everything the character does is despicable, and there’s no strong enough redeeming characteristics, forcing the audience to only sympathize with him because of his inability to believe in redemption. Harrelson shines brightest at his character’s lowest point, and that is with his failed communication with his two daughters, played wonderfully by Brie Larson and Sammy Boyarsky. They are his only source of happiness, but once they’re gone he truly has nothing left.
Rampart is a study of destined tragedy, about a brand of cop that still exists, but not in quite the same way. It’s about self-destruction at its absolute. By the end, the character is left lonely and alone: two killers that will do the job as slowly and painfully as possible.
The dialogue at some points is weak and not very intriguing, and the story we’re taken through has been done before, without a feeling of freshness. The acting elevates the story, but in the wrong hands the film wouldn’t have been the same.
Some may think that the film is poor because the main character has no redeeming characteristics, therefore some viewers may feel that they have nothing to relate to. The pacing of the movie also feels a bit slow, even for a character study, possibly due to the weightless story.
If you’re looking for gritty action cop drama with a live-wire, over-the-top performance, this isn’t it.
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