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Oren Moverman director of ‘Rampart,’ co-wrote the crime/drama screenplay with James Ellroy. The premiere for the film was at the Toronto International Film Festival and then it screened at the Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain, both in September 2011. After a limited release in the USA earlier this month, ‘Rampart’ opens in Austin theaters on February 24th, 2012.

Set in 1999, Dave Brown (two-time Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson) is a cop assigned to the scandal rocked the LAPD’s Rampart division. The script does not focus on the specific scandal, but actions by this fictional character does bring more unwanted notoriety to who the LAPD. Brown is the son of a veteran cop, who apparently followed in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He has a confidante and mentor retired from the force, Hartshorn (Ned Beatty), who “takes care of him” and receives “appreciation” for his help in yellow envelopes. In their conversations, Hartshorn mentions the father and their history together.

There is not much new to describe the character Officer Dave Brown, as it is one we have often seen before in other stories about men like this: stubborn; refuse to take responsibility for their actions or to change; are in positions of authority and power yet knowingly abuse it and others around him. This character is also self-destructive-abusing tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals with no prescription, sex and more. He is clueless as to how he destroyed two sister’s lives and the daughters they bore him.

Despite the suspicion for roughing up a suspect, murder and other charges, he drinks on the job and drives a patrol car. Do you wonder who and what else he knows? At the end of the film, does the viewer even care?

The excellent cast with great performances include Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Francis Capra, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Robert Wisdom, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Jon Bernthal, Jon Foster, Stella Schnabel, Sammy Boyarksy and many, many more Latino actors (or cast as Latinos) as this film is set in Echo Park.

It is too bad so many excellent veteran, established and younger generation cast members are in one film with a script that can leave the viewer feeling left high and dry after investing 107 minutes watching it. It is rated R by the MPAA for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence. What description is this, “some violence,” considering the repeated beatings, shootings, assaults and how Brown treats women?? There is plenty of violence in this film, not just “some.”


RATING: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

As I begin this review, I struggle with what rating to give this movie. Writer/director Oren Moverman (THE MESSENGER), writer James Ellroy (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), and their excellent cast and crew have produced a gritty portrait of a fictional Los Angeles police officer during the force’s most scandalous decade, the 1990s. However, as I watched this difficult, although sometimes absorbing, film, I expected much more story and character development. I also couldn’t help, but think that I’ve already seen films such as this one involving a dirty cop’s meltdown and done better (TRAINING DAY, BROOKLYN’S FINEST). A film which I didn’t really like, THE BAD LIEUTENANT, has already captured a similar story on film and it still annoys me a bit that even though RAMPART is the better movie, it has a slightly watered down approach and a lack of a satisfying conclusion. The film features remarkable performances by the cast (especially lead star Woody Harrelson), but is clearly lacking in the writing department.

Dave Brown (Harrelson), already a controversial figure on the L.A. police force because of his highly questionable involvement in the killing of an alleged serial date rapist, is once again thrust in the spotlight after his use of excessive force against a perpetrator is captured by a bystander on video. The year is 1999, and scrutiny of the LAPD is at an all time high. This decade has offered the media plenty of fodder in the form of Rodney King, the L.A. riots, and the Rampart scandal. The scandal brought to light widespread corruption in the force as more than seventy officers were implicated in misconduct. Looking to save face in light of these recent events, his superiors and the District attorney (Sigourney Weaver) begin to investigate his work behavior and also question his sanity. “Date Rape” Dave, as dubbed by the media, attempts to salvage his failing career, but through illegal methods. When Dave finds himself involved in another illegal incident, his entire life and career begins to spiral out of control.

I do really like the style in how this movie is filmed. Director Oren Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski do tremendous work here perfectly giving the film its gritty and realistic look. It sometimes has a documentary feel to it. While the film looks amazing and has incredible acting, the story just doesn’t go very far and leaves much to be desired. Brown is a character way beyond any help or redemption, but that doesn’t mean nothing whatsoever should happen to him. In addition to the poor development, the realism of the story often comes into question. In fact the movie raises several questions of plausibility. Why does Brown always work alone without a partner? How is it that he remains on duty, despite two back-to-back scandals with already one major publicity nightmare in his past? In reality, Brown would have been suspended until further investigated.

Getting back to the positive aspects of the film, Woody Harrelson delivers an amazing performance, perhaps the best of his career. It really surprises me that he didn’t receive any nominations for this role. The picture also offers remarkable performances by Anne Heche (Catherine), Cynthia Nixon (Barbara), Brie Larson (Helen), Robin Wright (Linda Fentress), Ben Foster (General Terry) and Ned Beatty (Hartshorn). These people, this wonderful cast, are the main reasons to watch this film.

Probably the best way to watch this movie would be as a rental. Nothing about it screams big screen, and the script certainly negates any reason to pay theater prices. The movie contains sexual content, violence, and heavy alcohol use so keep this in mind if considering watching it and especially if considering taking children to see it. Sometimes, it helps me to get through writing my review before I can give a movie my rating. This was the case with this one. The film brought to mind too many questions uncovering more flaws than I had originally considered. These flaws kept me from giving RAMPART rating within my favorable range.