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Rampart movie poster

Rampart: Movie Review

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Oren Moverman

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Ice Cube, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Steve Buscemi
Released by: Millennium Entertainment

In Short: It's the late 1990s, when a brutal LAPD cop devolves as the Rampart scandal escalates in this depressing take on those dark times.

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Witness the LAPD's Least Finest

"Rampart" is a dark look at one of the worst moments in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department, so it is no surprise that James Ellroy has a hand in the production. He's the famed author of books like "L.A. Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia," both of which were made into films. This time out, he and director Oren Moverman ("The Messenger") collaborated on the screenplay, choosing to focus on one cop working in the corrupt Rampart Division of the LAPD at the time of the real-life scandal that engulfed it.

It's 1999, and Officer Dave Brown has been working the L.A. ghettos for almost 25 years, following in his father's footsteps. He's a guy who lives on the edge, both personally and professionally, but has so far stayed under the radar of the Rampart scandal that has shaken up his division. But not for long, for as this cinema verite story unfolds, Dave is going off the rails.

Woody Harrelson in Rampart A still from Rampart

In the lead role, Woody Harrelson delivers a top performance as the cop who is drinking his meals, beating his way across the landscape and — why not? — shooting a few thugs along the way. Being a total badass is actually the antithesis of who Harrelson is in real life, which makes his performance doubly impressive, but it's a character that is so gone, so brutal and stripped down to his basest instincts, that it's difficult to empathize with him.

Throw in the jittery camera work, the dark lighting and the general sense of ennui that permeates "Rampart," and it's hard to like the film, too. Watching a bad cop spiral into the darkest places possible is a tough two hours, and only for those who find personal torment and intense unhappiness a good place to visit.

Ironically, Moverman has packed his film with some of the best actors of the fortysomething and over generation. In addition to Harrelson, the movie features strong performances from Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon. The problem is, it is all so depressing that by the time it is over, we wish we hadn't even gotten started.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters



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