Dir: Oren Moverman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Wright
The Film: Cinema has quite an extensive collection of ‘cop bad’ subgenre films, some are fantastic films and others are just forgotten about. The crime genre as a whole has some impressive titles, and one title that certainly sticks out is L.A. Confidential from the pen of one James Ellroy. His name certainly shows up from time to time, the story for Dark Blue was by Ellroy, and he wrote Street Kings. He is back as the writer for Rampart, with director Oren Moverman.
This is Moverman’s second feature film and his first adventure into this genre/subgenre. The ingredients here are pretty impressive already, Moverman scored points with the acclaimed The Messenger (the screenplay he co-wrote was Oscar nominated), and here he reteams with Woody Harrelson. There is a lot going for this film, and I was certainly excited to check it out. I had unfortunately missed its screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival, but its prompt arrival on DVD and Blu-ray was great.
This is set in the late 90’s in Los Angeles; the backdrop is the real life Rampart scandal. Our main character is David ‘Date Rape’ Brown, an LAPD police offer who plays by his own rules on the streets and in life. His nickname was picked up after he allegedly killed a serial rapist, something that could never be proven. At home he lives with either ex wife, who are both sisters in neighbouring houses. He has a child to each of them, and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone except the youngest child. The life he leads is a messy one, and he becomes the center of attention after being filmed brutally attacking someone. Brown becomes the scapegoat for the scandals the force is dealing with, and while being investigated he continues to get himself into hot water.
This is about a self-destructive man; there is nothing functional about Brown. He is the lowest kind of person there is, he does his job to serve his own means, and I don’t recall at all a point where he does anything selfless. Those who try to help him, get thrown aside, and pretty soon he has nowhere else to go. He is not a remotely likeable character, yet I was so incredibly engaged by him because of the power-house performance by Harrelson. It is clear two films in, that the team of Moverman/Harrelson is a damn good one. In The Messenger Harrelson wasn’t the main character, but he was the one that I took notice of. The Academy did also as he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
He truly does become the character here, and again is really is deserving of awards. I did not see Harrelson here, I saw the character of Dave Brown, and he disappeared inside him. The man immersed himself in this role, even dropping weight Christian Bale style (rumor has it that’s where he got the advice from); it is one of those things that is just amazing to see on screen. The character itself I think became interesting and watchable because of that performance. Think perhaps Harvey Keitel in Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, similar in a way, that is the best way I describe it or allude to it being.
Harrelson is this film, but his co-stars are also fantastic, for their short amount of screen time. Robin Wright is a tragic character here, and perhaps the real interesting one, but sadly we did not get much time with her, purposely done so I believe. Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi shine in their roles, as those Brown has to answer to. As his ex-wives are Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche, both excellent and I was impressed with Nixon more so. I am not sure what it was, but post Sex And The City she hasn’t left much of an impact but she did great here. Ben Foster is rarely a let down, and his character adds something to Brown that makes him even more of a soulless man. Ned Beatty was great, he was doing what he does well and it’s the best I’ve seen him at for years.
This is an interesting film, a very layered film in parts, a tragic character piece led by top performances. It is a film that looks excellent; it was shot and edited with a lot of ambition, which I think may throw some people. Its use of colour is a strong point; it makes the experience rather visual. Oren Moverman is shaping up to be the person to watch, and I’d love to see another Moverman/Harrelson piece.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p. Audio is presented with DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, with English Audio Description available. It contains English Caption subtitles – descriptive for the hearing impaired.
This is a nice looking and sounding Blu-ray. Both the video and audio were very crisp, just fabulous quality all around. I was impressed with how sharp the audio was especially.
* Behind The Scenes
* Theatrical Trailer
There are only a few extras. but they are very good inclusions. The behind the scenes feature is nice and in-depth, with some great insight into the film. Well worth watching just after you watch the film. The interviews are a good extension of this, and again well worth checking out. I’d love to have seen a director/actor commentary on this.
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.