|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
Woody my name, 'Woody' by nature...
"Rampart" - or the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department in full - is the segment of the LAPD responsible for serving LA's most densely populated community. While its radius resides within a mere 7.9 square miles, the Rampart division serves over 375,000 residents; and thanks to a number of high-profile cases has become prevalent within both the media and cinematic world.
Over the years, a number of questionable cases have called the departments conduct into question. Between the years of 1998-2000 numerous allegations of graphic and/or extreme police misconduct were made against Rampart's CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) division, tarnishing its image and putting tremendous strain on the divisions relationship with its community. While the LAPD did its best to recover from these accusations - most notably that of Rafael Pérez, a former CRASH officer who stole over $700,000; shot and framed well-known gang member Javier Ovando; and is believed by many to have murdered infamous rapper The Notorious B.I.G - its reputation preceded it.
Said reputation became the basis for many successful videogames (GTA: San Andreas) and films ( see Training Day; Dirty), and continues to be a point of interest for screenwriters and directors...and therein lies the basis of Rampart.
Woody Harrelson - himself no stranger to controversy and scandal - plays veteran officer David (Dave) Brown, a renegade cop in an otherwise conformist LAPD. Brown, whose alcoholic tendencies and frivolous sexual disposition look set to destroy the very lifestyle they have created, finds himself under intense pressure from Joan Confrey (Sigourney Weaver) following the very public leak of a videotape showing him savagely beating a black man. Already the focus of much internal investigation, Brown's life begins to spiral out of control - both on a personal and professional level - and, following a tinted tip-off from his equally corrupt former mentor Hartshorn (Ned Beatty), looks set to finally face the consequences of his actions.
At to the mix a wholly dysfunctional personal life - he lives with his wife, ex-wife (both of whom are sisters) and two daughters, one from each sister - a egotistical relationship with a lawyer who may - or may not - be investigating him and significant heat from straight shooting Detective Kyle Timkins (Ice Cube) and it's safe to say that Rampart has a plot as intrinsic as the character in which it portrays.
However, before I continue with my review, I'd like you all to watch the following trailer for Rampart (it's sort of important, so play along):
All done? Good. Now, the reason I asked you to watch the above trailer is to prove a point. After viewing, one could be forgiven for comparing the upcoming Rampart to the likes of Training Day or Dirty - which, coincidentally, are also based around the ongoings of the LAPD's Rampart division - and yet this couldn't be further from the truth. Unlike Training Day, Rampart never really steps up a gear, instead coasting along at a rather neutral pace. Sure, there's the occasional rev of intensity, but on the whole Rampart runs like cruise control - a marvel beforehand; an exciting prospect to start; but eventually nothing more than a steady runner.
You see, this trailer is both Rampart's greatest success and biggest downfall. On one hand, the editing team have helped broaden Rampart's appeal courtesy of its misleading soundtrack and visual intensity - from an initial viewing, one would expect a hard-hitting drama laced with elements of true renegade vengeance. However, it soon becomes clear that director Oren Moverman and co-writer James Ellroy had a different direction in mind for Rampart - a surreal pseudo-drama that leaves its audience guessing. Rampart is a dark, tantalising film that cares not for Bay-esque explosions, yet the trailer suggests an entirely different series of events... it's as if the film is suffering from a dissociative identity disorder.
And yet, trailer aside, Rampart is a powerful and thought-provoking addition to the dirty-cop genre.
Impressive performances from Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche - as Brown's wife and ex-wife respectively - ensures a degree of stability in Brown's otherwise chaotic lifestyle; and the dysfunctional situation in which they find themselves adds a misogynistic layer to our protagonists identity. Similarly, a number of powerful cameos - specifically in regards to Sigourney Weaver (Joan Confrey), Steve Buscemi (Bill Blago) and, would you believe it, Ice Cube (Detective Kyle Timkins) - helps the audience to relax around the theme, safe in the knowledge that they are surrounded by familiar faces .
Nevertheless, the stand out performance remains that of Rampart's protagonist Dave Brown, aka Woody Harrelson. A quote during the trailer (there's that damned trailer again!) proclaims Harrelson to be the "most corrupt cop you've ever seen on screen", and after viewing Rampart in all its abusive glory, it's a fair claim to make. Harrelson commands the audiences attention throughout, delivering a performance that challenges every pre-conceived notion of normality the viewer can imagine.
What Harrelson has done is to present a character so believable that the line between acting and reality is not only crossed, but smeared beyond recognition. Having enjoyed - and subsequently fought - an alcoholic and occasionally violent lifestyle, one could say that Harrelson's personal life plays a significant part in his portrayal; but it is the simplistic nature of his performance that truly deserves credit.
Brown is an obnoxious drunk, a womaniser, a dirty cop with little to no understanding of right and wrong, but with a vulnerability that speaks volumes. He clings to his family, desperately trying to keep them all - and by all I mean his wife, ex-wife and a daughter from each relationship - together, under the same roof, where he can protect them. This family represents a degree of normality, something that he can escape to when the real world and the height of his corruption becomes too much; and yet he continues to risk it all, unable to stay committed or clean for more than a couple of days.
In Rampart, Harrelson goes above and beyond the requirements of a 'role' and instead delivers us a pathological performance of unnerving realism. It won't be everyone's cup of tea - stay away if you're after CGI enhancements and explosive action - but for those who revel in powerful cinema, Rampart is certainly worth a watch...
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