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Rampart - DVD Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE corrupt cop movie has provided some of Hollywood’s finest with their meatiest roles, from Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning turn in Training Day to Richard Gere’s image-shredding role in Internal Affairs.

Woody Harrelson is the latest to walk the beat and is on mesmerising form as ‘Date Rape’ Dave Brown, an old-school boy in blue working in LA’s notorious Rampart division during the late ‘90s when the LAPD were at their most scrutinised.

He’s a mean dog too – one with a strict ‘moral’ code that frequently places him in conflict with his superiors (if not himself) and which has led to a career of womanising, random beatings and one unproven murder. And yet, he’s fiercely intelligent and quick-witted… a dangerous but addictive personality.

The ensuing film, which reunites Harrelson with The Messenger director Oren Moverman, takes a slow-burning, self-consciously unfocused look at Brown’s life as it begins to unravel around him.

The walls are closing in, quite literally, whether it’s at work, where a recent beating has been caught on camera, or at home, where the many women in his life are tired of his behaviour and lack of reliability.

Yet the film doesn’t pander to conventional structures or rules of thumb. Brown doesn’t necessarily have a comeuppance in waiting, just as some of the film’s storylines don’t necessarily have resolutions.

Characters drift in and out, some of them warranting better attention. But the focus is firmly fixed upon Harrelson’s Brown and the actor duly obliges with a blistering tour-de-force… one that is as layered and complex and even as occasionally volatile as the best of them (Al Pacino in Serpico, Christian Bale in Harsh Times, etc). It deserved an Oscar nomination at the very least.

Indeed, there’s a wonderful ambiguity about Brown that makes his compromised ethical code strangely understandable, while his charisma is such that even in his darkest hour there’s something worth rooting for.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon, who all seem to relish the opportunities – albeit fleeting – afforded by Ellroy’s typically classy script.

That’s not to say Rampart is perfect and it certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes given its lack of car chases and gun battles, or even a final definitive reckoning. But this only makes it more notable… a gripping character study that offers that rare mainstream commodity: complexity.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 108mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: July 9, 2012