Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor
So when I heard the tag line for the new flick Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson, I got psyched. “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen!” was trumpeted. No way he could top Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant, I thought. No way he could top Nicholas Cage in the other Bad Lieutenant. And there was certainly no way he could top Denzel Washington in Training Day. And guess, what? I was right on all three counts. Sure, Woody is corrupt, but…
Rampart gives us the story of LA cop Dave Brown, played by Woody Harrelson. Police misbehavior is being investigated in the true-to-life Rampart scandal, and Brown is thick in the middle of it. He’s videotaped beating a suspect and it propels him into a downward spiral. He’s got family problems, drinking problems, existence problems, time to cue up Woody for some serious ACTING! Lots of head-in-hands, staring off into space ensues but to Woody’s credit, he is restrained in his performance and not over-the-top. He’s the best part of the movie.
Co-written by accomplished crime fiction writer James Ellroy (who also wrote LA Confidential and Street Kings), the story is a little too caught up in the machinations of corruption, allowing for plot convolutions that are hard to follow, and lots of “Why is she doing that?” “Who is that guy?” and “Was that a double-cross?” When you don’t know, you don’t care, so what you’re left with is the visuals and the acting. The visuals, unfortunately, rely a little too much on abstract weirdness and a lot of shaky-cam. And other than Woody, the acting is standard issue; a Ned Beatty here, a Robin Wright there, nothing Earth-rattling.
It’s all very familiar territory with dirty LA cops. Yeah, Brown/Harrelson has some unique issues, some nonsense with two wives and various kids, and he’s smarter than your average policeman which is interesting, but when you get down to it, all you really have is the performance.
Most corrupt cop ever? Hardly.
Interesting to watch? Yeah, somewhat.
Original? Far from it.
Oscar bait for Woody? You betcha.
Rampart? Has “rental” written all over it.