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|Index||118 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a difficult film to get into, but stick with it and you'll be hooked. Rampart is a character study, following a corrupt cop with a twisted personal life as the net closes around him and he becomes increasingly paranoid. Hard hitting and at times uncomfortable, watching Officer Brown (Woody Harrelson) self destruct is morbidly fascinating. Harrelson deserves an Academy Award for his performance; he mesmerises with natural charisma and gives the character an all too believable psychotic edge. Other notable performances are Sigourney Weaver as Confrey and (amazingly) Ice Cube as Timkins. Bobby Bukowski does a fantastic job with the cinematography, using a range of shots and low key effects to maximise the key moments in the plot. The open ending is a bit of a let down, a wrapping up of the story would have been preferable. However, this is still the best movie I've seen for a while.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My my my my my!!! I thought this sorry mess would be at least gritty and entertaining because it's written by James Ellroy - my favourite crime author. Heck, I loved L.A. Confidential, Dark Blue, Black Dahlia, Street Kings, almost anything by Ellroy. So imagine my disappointment at this rubbish when the credits started rolling and I realized that I had just wasted my time! Absolutely nothing happens! At all! Literally nothing happens. The main character (who's a complete racist, bigot, sexist etc) doesn't even get his comeuppance or redeem himself through saving someone or sacrificing himself or anything like that. Nobody gets killed, no guns are fired, no nudity, no sex, no story, no action, nothing! However, the one and only saving grace is Harrelson's portrayal of the main character. And that's literally it.
Rampart invokes a question which, in itself, is never a good sign when
it comes to filmmaking. What went wrong when the end result is much
lesser than the sum of its parts?
Here we have the multi-talented Woody Harrelson, in the role of a psycho LA cop, flanked by great names such as Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Ned Beatty and Robin Wright, in a film that, for all intents and purposes, offers great material and a thrilling story. Now, subtract from this sum the fact that most of these talents are shamefully underused, and then the factors of bad writing, bad direction, complete lack of build-up and the weakest ending in the history of weak endings... and what do you get? Proof that you need a lot more than a can full of great actors to make a great film, that's what.
This story is set in the late 90s. Harrelson plays Dave Brown, a Los Angeles police officer with 24 years of experience under his belt. He is a racist, misogynistic, violent brute and absolutely unashamed of it. He shares his house (and his bed) with two sisters, both of whom mothered his two daughters. At work, he will literally beat a confession out of any poor bastard under his interrogation. And when push comes to shove, he might just shove you into an early grave. Needless to say, this guy is not big on ethics. Until he himself is placed under interrogation by his superiors after he is caught using excessive force on a man who accidentally rammed his patrol car. This incident also sheds new light on a decade-old case of Dave killing an alleged rapist. All of this builds up to Dave's pending lawsuit.
So that's the basic story. Although and this is a good thing it's all pretty much a backdrop to a portrait of one seriously messed-up individual, and the people that get messed up by default.
Writing this review, I find it hard to answer the original question. Because this is usually the part where I point out all the good things about the film, but I'm actually having trouble finding any good things to say about Rampart. Well, there's one (very!) good thing and that's Woody Harrelson. Matter of fact, he's the only reason I even finished watching. He's one of my favourite actors, so it's hard not to sound biased, but the versatility he brings to every project he's involved in, is quite astounding. And should he ever win an Oscar in the future, it will be long overdue. His portrayal of this character is absolutely convincing, but it's a shame that his performance here is almost completely wasted in this would-be art house drivel. Had this been a better film, the Academy might just have noticed him.
Instead, what we're presented here is really nothing more than a lame excuse for an artistically made film. Technically, the only things that even remotely make it work are the good camera work and photography. The lighting techniques are very well applied and the image colouring and camera angles make the whole aesthetically well-made, and create an appropriate and heavy atmosphere. But that's pretty much it. Great actors completely fall by the wayside in small, uninteresting roles that could have been played by anybody. Sigourney Weaver plays a local DA which is a role that only shows her sitting behind a desk for about five minutes. Steve Buscemi plays the smallest and most insignificant role of his career as I-don't-even-know-who, and has no more than maybe six lines of dialogue. I don't know why he even bothered to show up. Robin Wright plays an attorney, whose relevance to the story becomes more and more puzzling throughout the film. And Ned Beatty? Oh yeah, he's in there somewhere too...
I should point out that the bad quality of this film is to no account of the actors, they are all very good in their roles. The fault here lies almost entirely with the bad screenplay. There is simply no proper start, zero build-up and the ending is so painstakingly unsatisfactory that it feels like a bad hangover. The structure of story-telling seems completely arbitrary and fragmented, like they just threw a whole bunch of random scenes together and decided to call it a film. Director Oren Moverman has made a few critically acclaimed films, most notably his Bob Dylan pic 'I'm Not There', but Rampart is one film I wouldn't want on my résumé.
What's probably the biggest let-down is the lack of shock value. The premise of Rampart is that it's about the incredibly violent nature of this one "all-American" police officer. And it's true, the things he says and does are pretty brutal, heartless and offensive. But all in all, it's actually not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm saying this not from a realistic point of view, because I think anyone who behaves like this should be behind bars, but as a film, it's just not interesting enough. The scenes depicting violence are few and far in between, and aside from the fact that he obviously uses women as a personal commodity, Dave Brown's character never really rises above your basic a**hole standard. There are unfortunately many more guys like this walking around, and I'm even sure there are cops worse than this one.
Altogether, the film drags, the pacing is awful and in the end, it leaves you feeling utterly hollow and unsatisfied. Some people might appreciate Rampart as a vague kind of indie effort, but I'm usually one of those people. I 'get' vague. I 'get' artsy. I don't 'get' Rampart.
It's an utter waste of great talent and opportunity, and I would wish for all actors involved that this had been a better film, because they deserve it, but this film is a blemish on anyone's track record.
Directed by Oren Moverman (the excellent Oscar-nominated The
Messenger), written by James Ellroy (the fantastic Oscar winning L.A.
Confidential) and staring the Oscar nominated Woody Harrelson and
Sigourney Weaver, Rampart should be a stunning film.
It's a turgid, leaden waste of two hours.
Harrelson gives a solid performance as bitter, angry, violent L.A. cop, Dave 'Date Rape' Brown but it isn't enough to redeem a film than would be better pitched as a cure for insomnia. Brown is an unpleasant man who married two sisters, hates the world, is violent, racist, misogynistic, resents his place in the world, rebels against authority and probably stamps on kittens and nuns. The subject of an investigation into corruption within the department, he diverts attention by beating the crap out of a black man in broad daylight and, when he makes prime-time news because his violent outburst has been captured on camera, he feels no shame at his actions. I'm sure you get it; he's unpleasant.
Equally unpleasant are the sound mix and camera work. The former is so poor that much of the dialogue is lost and I gave up on it. Moverman has evidently taken his own name too seriously and used a style of shooting that jars with the dialogue rather than accentuating it. He may have attempted great art but he's produced a series of nauseating images. In a scene where Brown meets with his superiors and lawyers, Moverman endeavours to show the pointlessness of the ever-revolving conversation by panning every single shot from left to right (at various speeds and with additional tilts, pans and zooms) so the edited sequence rotates continuously around the room and characters. He succeeded, not in impressing me, but inducing a headache and diverting my focus entirely from the conversation.
More than anything, Moverman's greatest crime is to release a film that is dull, dull, dull. I found my fruitless search for navel fluff far more compelling and abandoned the cinema at the start of the credits in search of something, anything, interesting in the tread of my tyres.
Tomorrow night I shall finally force myself into a screening of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and then we'll discover if Rampart is still the worst film of the year so far. Will it hold the top spot for more than 24 hours?
Another film review from The Squiss. For more reviews from The Squiss subscribe to my blog at www.thesquiss.co.uk
Our anti-hero, Officer David Douglas Brown played by Woody Harrelson is
a bad ass kick butt old school LA cop. who is more than a little dirty,
Set in 1999 at the time of the notorious Ramparts LA PD scandal, he is
a Rampart's cop caught beating a suspect silly after the perp
accidentally rammed his cruiser in the perps car, then ran off after
smashing his car door into Woody's legs as the bad cop approached the
car. So natch, Office Brown, all stoned, drunk and angry, beats him up
good after tackling him, in public while someone films him doing it. So
now a big scandal ensues where he is the object of scorn by all sorts
of people in and out of the department. Then to pay for his lawyers,
some old codger retired corrupt cop mentor, Hartshorn, played by Ned
Beatty set him up to rob a card game which went bad when he shot some
other robbers who beat him to the game. This added to his problems with
Internal Affairs or the DA, not sure, played lamely by Ice Cube as Kyle
Timkins We know he is a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic yadda
yadda type guy cause we are told that several times by the women in his
life, including his eldest daughter. Well, as far as sexist and
misogynistic, that is a stretch since he treated all the women in the
movie, including his ex wives who are sisters and whom he still lives
with because of his two daughters, fairly decently, certainly better
than he got from them. Also, throw in some randy lawyer who goes down
on him then tells him off. Typical Hollywood Can he help it that women
are attracted to him? Otherwise, he is a drunk, a thief, on the take
and does robberies of card games and drug dealers to finance his
expensive lifestyle. No doubt he is a racist but in a place where all
the perps are either Mexican, Central American or black, it is hard not
Basically he is an addict and alcoholic and that is the root of most of his evil. Woody didn't put his heart in the role, which was written for him. He just sort of plows through it. Woody uses his trademarked "backwoods but way more smarter than I sound at first" act, throwing out all sorts of big words and clever repartee to the rest of the actors. There is no real conclusion of the movie though it seems like things aren't going to go well for him. The film technique is very blurry and over exposed intentionally but it detracts not adds to the film. It reminds me in a way of Crash, but while much better, it is a disappointment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A perfect double feature: Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" and
"Rampart." Afterward, you'll look askance at every passing Cop.
This film's strength derives from Woody Harrelson. When considering him for the role of Mickey in "Natural Born Killers," Oliver Stone recognized (paraphrasing), "the madness behind those sweet eyes." Woody's mad eyes twinkle darkly in this tale of a man who can't be redeemed (the sole difference between "Rampart" and "Bad Lieutenant").
'Date-Rape' Dave Brown is a failed lawyer. It's inferred he bagged the Bar Exam for the excitement and directness of street justice - which he metes out with extreme prejudice. Dave rewrites the cinema bad Cop book. He's racist, a bigot, sexist, misanthrope, thief, killer who "hates everyone equally." To some fellow officers he's a hero. Others view him as a dinosaur and uncomfortable reminder of Old School LA policing a la Rodney King (which serves as template for the brutal, on-camera beating Dave gives a perpetrator). However, "Rampart" (set in 1999) ultimately refers to the late 90's Rampart Scandal during which Officers stole Coke from evidence lockers, covered up the shooting of an unarmed Gang member, robbed a bank.
LA's Rampart Division has a long cinematic history: "Adam-12," "Colors." This ain't your Daddy's "Adam-12" Rampart though. "Rampart" satirizes Jack Webb, sanitized-for-your-protection Cop Shows.
With a slight lean to the left, "Rampart" opens a dialogue about the enforcement of Law, particularly in regard to the case of an alleged Serial Rapist Dave 'disappeared'. When asked why, Dave blithely answers he killed the man so, "women will like me." We also learn the alleged rapist's wife is institutionalized at a mental facility while his two kids are sexually abused in Foster Homes. Cause and effect.
While "Rampart" teeters on the brink of exploitation, it doesn't fall into the abyss through the efforts of a terrific supporting cast: Heche, Nixon, Weaver, Wright, Buscemi and a fine Ned Beatty as a just-to-the-right of Attila The Hun, retired Old School Cop who pulls strings (for a price) with the guys upstairs to shield Dave.
The inclusion of Dave's family life adds little to the proceedings. Dave lives with two ex-wives, Sisters, and his two girls. While the portrayals are fine, the plot elements - rebellious lesbian teen daughter, torn young daughter - are predictable and somewhat tossed off. However, as loosely as Dave (an abysmal Father and Husband) holds onto the family, it is his life's sole island of 'normalcy'.
The Cinematographer's Michael-Mann-inspired use of LA's natural light-palette and the framing of ugly urban landscapes is striking. (It seems the ugliest corners of LA were scouted.) Conversely, there are some completely whack, nearly experimental compositions that lead to head scratching.
While deep in the subtext, "Rampart" is a left-handed allegory for the US involvement in not only Vietnam (Dave's a Vet), but all foreign lands trod by unwelcome American Army boots.
"Rampart" challenges the viewer to take a side: cheer for this rampaging Cop or recoil in horror. Some have written about the ambiguous ending. While not wholly satisfying, it is anything but. Dave is beset on all sides. Screwed. Portraying his comeuppance is superfluous.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to realize portraying women's attraction to Dave's brutality creates an aura of misogyny they may not have intended.
Great cast and performances, interesting story (a bit too strident in the telling), adds up to a fairly entertaining film. This is a film of ideas demanding a better hearing. "Rampart" is as good as a near-exploitation film about a serious topic can be. Wan praise to be sure, but thanks for the effort in tackling a prickly, complex subject.
A loudmouth racist cop gets his well-earned comeuppance. This is
territory that's been visited before, most obviously in the two
versions of BAD LIEUTENANT: a lot of shouting and swearing (much of it
totally unintelligible) in darkened bars and bedrooms (and a busy sex
club!). Woody Harrelson's performance is slightly less manic than those
of Harvey Keitel and Nicholas Cage, but it's hard to feel much sympathy
for rogue cop Dave Brown in his downward spiral. I cared about Nick
Cage self-destructing in LEAVING LAS VEGAS but I didn't in the 2009 BAD
LIEUTENANT and I don't care about Woody Harrelson on a similar path in
RAMPART. It's not the fault of the actors. Some of it must be down to
the direction or the script, which are both scrappy, but mainly I think
it's just overkill.
We've seen too much of this kind of movie.
There are holes in the storyline everywhere. Pointless jaunts down
dead-end narratives, and strange scenes that don't really serve a
storyline at all. However, each scene does add something to the
in-depth portrayal of the character played by Woody Harrelson,
sometimes clumsily, sometimes cleverly. This movie shows a remarkable
study of a cop that's losing control, and through its meandering
scenes, it is dark, captivating and twisted.
So if you can deal with the lack of substance when it comes to story, watch it for the soundtrack, the intricate family relationships and the inner torment of Dave Brown. For me it was worth it.
Great cast. Unbelievable waste of time. Because of the caste I kept watching. Shame on me. If I had a choice to watch it again or watch a toilet flush for 2hrs...I'd watch the toilet. I hope this will save someone from this ugly drivel of a movie. STOP READING HERE. I am reminded that my comments must be longer. This film does not require more words. More words just waste more time about an already sad sloppy movie. The actors did a great job, but to no point at all. We only live so long. Don't wast a minute on this movie. Now, I've used more energy to say nothing. This film is bad and sad. I hope you stopped and did not read passed the warning.
I gave it 5 but it could have gotten a 6 if the ending was better. The
film was OK. I couldn't connect with the character, although Woody
Harelson played him very well. The camera-work was well done including
a scene in an office where it's spinning around and moving to the side
of people as they talk.
It could've been a lot better. I was getting into it then it kind of went downhill, then it shot back up and went back down again. It wasn't consistent in keeping me interested about what was happening to the character and it came to a point where I didn't really care. But it shot back up and I became interested again.
The ending was lazy. I didn't particularly like it. It built up this whole character and shows him being cast out by his family and then ....POOF.... just, gone. Finished.
It was decent but I wouldn't really recommend it to people. Although, if people have doubts about Woody Harelson they should defiantly see it. He's very good in it, as he is in everything.
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