Director: Oren Moverman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi
Release Date: Out now
Rampart opens with Dave Brown (Harrelson) smoking a cigarette while driving his police car. If ever there was an opening scene that said it all, this has to be it. He spends almost the entire film with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
Dave is a detective attached to the corrupt Rampart division of the LAPD, which is under a large-scale investigation. An old school tough man, he is caught on camera beating a man almost to death simply because he had accidentally dented his car. It follows from here that he is set up as a kind of scapegoat, taking a large dose of public backlash to remove some of the heat from the Rampart investigation.
Rampart is nothing if not interesting. A worn-out cop is nothing new in cinema, but this movie provides a straight and insightful look into a mind that is corrupt beyond recourse. The film is claustrophobic throughout, told entirely from Dave’s point of view. The lack of dramatic irony of any sort and his mounting paranoia helps crank up the tension like a vice, lending the film an air of great unease. It is almost as though a bomb has been placed onscreen that could go off at any given moment. Dave’s callous behaviour is very wearing however, and were it not for the emotional power brought to the film in scenes involving his daughters, his complete lack of feeling would have lessened the film’s impact.
Harrelson is well suited to the role; he is all swagger, smouldering stares and devil-may-care attitude, but the standout performances are those of his two daughters Helen (Brie Larson) and Margaret (Sammy Boyarsky), who manage to carry the film even though they appear only intermittently. On the same point, with such stars as Steve Buscemi, Ben Foster, and Sigourney Weaver also in the credits, a large amount of the characters in this film are drastically underused. Buscemi’s minor role in particular, appearing only twice in the entire film, is an unfortunate side effect of this protagonist-centric method of storytelling.
In a Nutshell: Does well to document the fall of a proud man, but suffers from not using the talent available to fully express the emotional