RAMPART (2011) is the second pairing of Woody Harrelson and director Oren Moverman, who first collaborated on the very fine film THE MESSENGER back in 2009.
Here, Mr. Harrelson plays tough cop David Brown who is based in the Rampart division of Los Angelos, a tough and especially volatile place back in 1999. Officer Brown prides himself in his police work, despite his unorthodox tendencies and the ability to raise hackles with his PR minded superiors. He is caught on camera assaulting a driver who accidentally runs into his squad car, and is put on suspension until the brouhaha is sorted out. Things are little better on the home front. Married and divorced twice, with a daughter from each marriage, he continues to assert his paternal position and thinks he is still vital to their existence even as all four women want him out of their lives. The few people who still let him into their lives grow tired of him and his self-destructive tendencies and his need to dominate all around him. He loses his grip on his job, his family, his health and sanity as the film progresses, and in the end his well manicured vernacular and easy charm do not save him.
I have seen Woody Harrelson in a lot of films by now, and the more I see the more I love him as a performer, actor, and gentleman. The part of Officer Brown is quite tough given his unsympathetic and often clueless nature, and Mr. Harrelson doesn’t let that stop him from digging deep into the psychology and character flaws. When Brown finally does crack, one can actually feel sorry for him even as we see how he sunk so low.
There is a great supporting cast, notably Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche as his estranged wives, Sigourney Weaver as his tough minded boss, Ice Cube as an Internal Affairs agent who hounds Brown, Ben Foster as a homeless veteran, Ned Beatty as his older fatherly police confidant and Robin Wright as a bar-fling who is the mirror image of Brown’s own character. All were attracted to the project by the script and the Messenger film’s accomplishments.
Mr. Moverman allows everyone to inhabit their characters in an organic way, and moves the story along so fluidly and gracefully even given its dark nature. James Ellroy, the great noir author who wrote LA Confidential and White Jazz, co-wrote the script with Moverman and brings a hard edge and knowing to the scenes. Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski brings the digitally shot film to great life using the Alexa camera system (God I love that camera, so many good films are being shot on it now), and editor Jay Rabinowitz keeps things moving at just the right pace all throughout.
I really recommend this film, it’s outstanding. And I hope to see more collaborations between Moverman and Harrelson, they make a great team and are committed to telling complex adult stories, which we need many more of these days.
Watched on June 21st, 2012 on Bluray in Fort Wayne IN (thank you Blockbuster!)