Rampart (R15)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/02/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Rampart starts promisingly and features a committed performance from Woody Harrelson, but the meandering script is increasingly frustrating, the central character is deeply unlikeable and Moverman's direction veers between sluggish and pretentious throughout.

What's it all about?
Co-written (with James Ellroy) and directed by Oren Moverman (reuniting with his star after their collaboration on The Messenger), Rampart is set in Los Angeles in 1999 and stars Woody Harrelson as veteran cop Dave Brown, nicknamed “Date-rape” after apparently pre-meditatively killing an alleged rapist. With the Rampart district police department beset by an ongoing corruption scandal, Dave only makes things worse when he's filmed beating up the driver of a car that smashed into him on the street.

As various lawyers, investigators and officials (including Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube and a cameoing Steve Buscemi) try to force Dave to quit, he vows to fight his case, but things spiral out of control after he's involved in yet another incident following an armed robbery. Meanwhile, Dave struggles with a burgeoning addiction to prescription meditation and tries to hold down a fractured home life – he lives with his two ex-wives (sisters, played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche) and his two half-sister daughters (Brie Larson and Sammy Boyarsky) in adjoining houses – while simultaneously beginning a relationship with a troubled lawyer (Robin Wright) who he thinks might be setting him up.

The Good
Harrelson is excellent, delivering a committed, dominating performance without resorting to Pacino-style shouting or Cage-like theatrics. There's also terrific support from Sigourney Weaver, though almost everyone else is so underwritten that they could easily be removed from the story with very little impact.

The Bad
The main problem is that the meandering script (reputedly extensively rewritten by Moverman) is less interested in the plot than it is in creating a character study, so the story becomes increasingly frustrating. In addition, the character is so deeply unlikeable (compared to, say, corrupt cop Vic Mackey in TV's The Shield, which was also based on the real-life Rampart scandal) that it's impossible to care about him, while certain actions (particularly an inopportune shooting) fail to ring true.

On top of that, Moverman's direction veers from stultifying (the film's only 108 minutes but feels much longer) to overly pretentious, with distracting camerawork and an utterly pointless, jarring and completely inconsequential (in plot terms) sequence set in an underground sex club.

Worth seeing?
Despite a promising set-up and a strong central performance from Harrelson, Rampart ultimately fails to satisfy either as a police drama or as a character study, thanks to painfully pretentious direction, a frustrating script and a plot that's riddled with underdeveloped characters and loose ends.

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Content updated: 22/10/2019 12:59

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