Rampart

UK Release Date 24th February 2012
Director Oren Moverman
Starring Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster
Runtime 108 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 21st February 2016

Los Angeles 1999. The Rampart scandal is at its height. Over 70 cops of the CRASH anti-gang unit of the LAPD are under investigation for planting false evidence, drug dealing, framing suspects and bank robbery. Three cops are even alleged to be involved of the murder of Notorious B.I.G.

In profile, in montage, driving, smoking, always smoking is Dave Brown super-cop. Dave’s dirty, swimming in filth, 24 years on the force, Vietnam veteran with an arrest rate off the chart. He’s got two ex-wives, both sisters and a daughter by each of them. They all live in two adjacent houses in a picturesque suburb. Dave’s haemorrhaging money hand over fist.

“Illegal is just a sick bird,” grins Dave through those mirror shades. You want self-serving one-liners Dave will hook you up quicker than a streetwalker on Hollywood Boulevard. He’s invincible, badass a fully fledged member of the, “Glorious soldier’s department.”  He’ll take down a card game and pocket the dead presidents or beat the address of a meth lab out of a cholo.

Dave’s a serial womaniser, a skin-tight chiselled sex-case. When asked by a pick-up what his moniker is he replies, “Date Rape” on the count of him murdering a serial sex offender in cold blood. She doesn’t bat an eyelid. Dave’s got that Mussolini swagger, all chin and Roman nose-if he had a balcony he’d fold his arms and soak up the adulation of his tin-pot empire.

The thing is Dave’s running out of time but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s assailed on all sides after being caught on video nearly beating a man to death. Dave thinks he can ride it out like he’s always done, bamboozling everyone who’s out to get him with a case for all seasons, “Do you have all those cases memorised?” asks a rookie. Dave’s cool, “If I don’t I just make ‘em up.”

Also in Dave’s corner is one of those shadowy ex-cops, those old-timers who still run the clandestine goings on in the department. He’s keeping the same scumbag company as Training Day, Dark Blue and The Shield; those guys who sit at murky tables and make the shit disappear. Has Dave used up his get out of jail free card or does he still retain a line of credit at the LAPD bank of corruption?

Rampart confirmed Woody Harrelson as one of the most fearless actors working today and is a main line to his unfairly overshadowed performance in True Detective. His gradual decline as the walls close in is brilliantly realised in brutal detail aided by Oren Moverman’s hellish portrayal of The City of Angels and James Ellroy’s uber-noir script. The club sequence alone is an awe inspiring set piece of self loathing,  a man drowning in purgatory with sub-bass, jump cuts and stabbing reds. 

Harrelson’s Dave not only confronts his own demons but those who would cast him from cop-heaven in the form of Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, Ice Cube, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ben Foster and Steve Buscemi. Think about the heavyweight division with Ali, Norton, Fraser and Foreman and you’ll instinctively know how great this film is.

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