Thursday, January 5, 2012


The trailer for Rampart promises that, “Woody Harrelson is the most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen.” Obviously the marketers who drafted the preview missed Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant (or Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant), Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, Matt Damon in The Departed, Gary Oldman in The Professional, Denzel Washington in Training Day, to name a few. Point is: if you’re going to assert such a bold statement, you’d better have the material to back it up.

As a character study, Rampart is a moderate success. Everything that veteran LAPD officer “Date Rape” Dave Brown does is done with a lust that is rather appealing. The way he preys on women in bars, criminals in the street, and fellow cops who refuse to finish their food, is executed by Woody Harrelson with psychotic glee. Basically, a character like Officer Dave Brown should be able to carry a movie, only one not as lacking and misguided as this.

Void of plot the way most character studies are, Rampart follows Office Brown (oh hell, let’s just call him Date Rape) around as he tries to duck corruption scandals against him, dodge new humiliations within his own department, and keep his needlessly complex family afloat. He drinks, he smokes, he screws, he hits, and he does it all quite well.

Here’s my main problem: Rampart is far too complicated for its own good. Its story problems are so pointless and dense, that I may have trouble articulating them clearly in print.

Take Date Rape’s family situation. He has two children, a boy from a woman (Cynthia Nixon) and a girl from the first woman’s sister (Anne Heche). So not only did he knock up two sisters, he makes them live together in the same house, while he crashes in the guesthouse out back. Every night during dinner while the others eat (Date Rape doesn’t eat, for reasons not explained) he openly asks which sister wants to sleep with him that night. If they reject him, he chases tail at the local bar. It’s like Big Love mixed with Modern Family sprinkled with The Shield.  I wouldn’t take issue with this family dynamic, expect for the fact that it does nothing whatsoever to motivate the plot or the characters. It is, in a word, pointless.

As is Date Rape’s feelings on food (he doesn’t eat, and he demands with threats of violence that the people around him finish their food), and the story behind how his nickname was bestowed on him (he may have killed a rapist many years ago, or he may not have…), and the many people trying to nab his badge for all the bad shit he’s done.
Rampart is directed by Oren Moverman, who made The Messenger, a very good, very poignant film that contained one of Harrelson’s best performances. Moverman and Harrelson work well together, the actor’s depiction of Date Rape makes that clear. It’s an intense, fiery performance that would garner more awards attention if it weren’t lost in such an aimless film. (A film, I must add, that, like so many of its 2011 counterparts, decided not to have an ending). Harrelson gets an A, the movie as a whole: C-.


  1. Hard to disagree. The problem, I think, is a lack of trimming. I'm an avid reader of James Ellroy books, and he goes into tons of detail in each of them. Whilst this was never a book, I can see the same thing here. It needed to have had some of the fat trimmed from it before serving, in my opinion.

  2. The movie doesn't really hold up all that well considering how slow moving and uneventful it is, but Harrelson is a powerhouse with this performance and I'm really bummed to see that he probably won't get that Oscar nomination this year. Oh well. Nice review.

  3. @Colin Totally agree with you. I read your review (found it on IMDb - nice!) and was laughing my ass off. I think we're pretty much in agreement on this one.

  4. @Dan O. Yeah he was great in it, but the movie was seriously lacking. Oh well is right. Thanks for reading, Dan!

  5. Hey Guys,

    On January 12th, 2012 we’re hosting a live Q & A with Angelina Jolie to promote her film In the Land of Blood and Honey, her written and directorial debut. If you were interested in hosting the Live Broadcast of the Q & A on your website, as well as, getting some awesome In the Land of Blood and Honey swag, please feel free to email me and we can get you all set up! Don’t hesitate to come to me with any questions you may have about the event and I look forward to hearing back from you! Have a great day!

    Partner’s Hub Engagement Team

  6. That sounds like a slightly better movie than Pride & Glory, which was just embarassing to watch. I like Harrelson but I don't think I like him enough to watch this one :)
    Great review!

  7. @Sati. Ah I remember Pride & Glory... I think I liked some of the performances in that, but maybe not haha.

    Thanks for reading!