Title: Rampart

Director: Oren Moverman

Screenwriter: James Ellroy, Oren Moverman

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Brie Larson

Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 1/23/12

Opens: February 10, 2012

There’s really only one reason to see “Rampart, ” but it’s a good enough one–and that’s the awards-worthy performance of Woody Harrelson in the role of a dirty cop. The L.A.-based police drama that may well have been inspired by the Rodney King affair is murky–a downer with a plot that is repetitive, spinning on in a circular way to put us firmly into the mind of the rogue cop, Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) who is coming apart at the seams both on his beat and within his strange family. The major part of Bobby Bukowski’s filming is dark and sometimes dizzying. The neighborhood is bleak and appears riddled with crime, which is all Dave Brown needs to know to release his macho style on everyone he meets. He is so controlling that he even forces a rookie cop in the precinct to eat the fries that she orders, despite her insistence that she is watching her cholesterol. (Never mind the burger that she downs, though the whole scene may be Woody Harrelson’s sending up of his own raw-food shtick, having had a role in a DVD about reversing diabetes by eschewing the gas range: the end-credits list his personal nutritionist.)

Dave Brown is a veteran police officer with the L.A.P.D., though despite twenty-four years with the department he wears only two stripes–which probably means that he’s merely a corporal with a little supervisory authority within the precinct. Perhaps because of his low rank after all that service or maybe because of his criminal actions on the force, Brown is brutal to alleged criminals and, with his own family, a bad husband (consecutively) to two sisters (Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche). He believes it’s OK to put away the bad guys for good, which is why he killed an alleged serial date-rapist–giving him the nickname in the precinct of Date Rape, which his confused older daughter (Brie Larson) uses to address him. Accused by one of his ex-wives of ruining the lives of the two daughters, he is in even greater trouble with his police unit, investigated by the D.A. (Steve Buscemi) and the assistant D.A. Joan Confrey (Sigourney Weaver), and pursued by internal affairs officer Kyle Timkins (Ice Cube). Yet because he projects the image of “all man,” he scores with the women he hits on in bars including Linda Fentress (Robin Wright) who he believes may be setting him up, and is given shady advice by his mentor, Hartshorn (Ned Beatty) who may also be stabbing him in the back. General Terry (Ben Foster), a homeless man in a wheelchair who witnessed one of Brown’s murders, believes he is owed special favors by the cop as well.

Director Oren Moverman, whose “The Messenger” (which also featured Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Steve Buscemi) looked in upon a pair of military men who visit the families of soldiers killed in action, does allow us some sympathy for a cop who is his own worst enemy, as when we watch Dave Brown privately consider suicide while publicly refusing responsibility for his extreme behavior. Moverman, using a script he co-wrote with James Ellroy, does well in featuring Harrelson in virtually every scene, an actor whose charisma commands attention even in a slow-moving drama that is a downer all the way.

Rated R. 112 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C+

Acting – B+

Technical – C

Overall – B-

rampart movie

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