Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Directed by Oren Moverman and written by Moverman and James Ellroy, Rampart is the story of a corrupt LAPD officer who finds himself in trouble as he tries to redeem himself during the Rampart scandal of 1997 for the Los Angeles Police Department. The film is a character study of a man dealing with his own actions as he tries to defend himself and save his career amidst a tumultuous period in the city of Los Angeles. Starring Woody Harrelson, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Brie Larson, Steve Buscemi, and Sigourney Weaver. Rampart is a compelling yet flawed film from Oren Moverman.

Set in 1999 Los Angeles during a dark period for the LAPD who is dealing with the Rampart scandal, the film is about a dirty and corrupt police scandal whose actions have finally caught up with him. Rather than quitting his job, officer Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) tries to save his job and avoid any jail time but he becomes more troubling as even those who once bailed him out are unable to help him. Yet, Brown is also someone who is really a man that is just born to undo himself where he would eventually bring discomfort to authorities that want to help him as well as bring shame to his family. The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Brown and the things he does as a police officer but also a person who likes to take the law into his own hands. Sometimes it would be in the most gruesome way where he would be caught on tape beating someone who hit his car though Brown had every reason to beat up the guy.

While the script does paint Brown as a man who just hates everyone while doing all sorts of things. There are elements to him that try to show some goodness to him but his faults would often overwhelm everything as his own eldest daughter Helen (Brie Larson) really hates him. While the script does nice work in fleshing out Brown and his complexities, the script however doesn’t do much to get the story to move forward or really go anywhere. Especially as it relates to what Brown is trying to do but it tend to slow things down as he is given options that could’ve helped him. Whenever Brown is given these opportunities to redeem himself, the results become very frustrating as it play more into his character as someone that is just stubborn and not willing to see the bigger picture.

Moverman’s direction has some very intense moments in the way it showcases late 1990s Los Angeles as a world that is quite dangerous and unpredictable. Shot on location in some of the urban parts of Los Angeles as well as some of its downtown areas, the film does play into a world where a man is convinced that he is doing good for the city but is extremely corrupt in his actions. Moverman’s usage of close-ups and medium shots are engaging though there are some moments that aren’t very good. Notably a sequence where Brown meets two attorneys where the camera is constantly moving around to focus on one character in a repetitive pan where it is very annoying. It’s one of the aspects of the film that didn’t work while the script’s lack of a strong narrative does falter the pacing. Though Moverman’s usage of crane overhead shots and other stylistic moments are good, the film’s resolution is lacking in terms of any kind of redemption could be made for Brown as it ends up being unsatisfying despite Moverman’s observation on its protagonist. Overall, Moverman creates a intriguing but lackluster film about a dirty cop’s attempt to make things right.

Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the stylish usage of lights and moods for many of the interior/exterior scenes set at night along with some grainy film stock for scenes set in the day. Editor Jay Rabinowitz does nice work with the editing as it does have some stylish jump-cuts and some unique rhythms for the suspense and drama though it does falter in that sequence where Brown is being interviewed by two attorneys. Production designer David Wasco, with set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and art director Austin Gorg, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Brown lives in with this ex-wives (who are sisters) and the hotel rooms he would crash as well as the home of a lawyer he would sleep with.

Costume designer Catherine George does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual along with the look of the police uniforms while the only character that plays into a sense of style is Helen. Sound designer Javier Bennassar does superb work with the sound in the way the police sirens and gunfire sounds along with the intimate moments at home and at the bars. The film’s music by Dickon Hinchliffe is brilliant for its somber-based score in the guitar and keyboards to play into the drama while music supervisor Jim Black creates a soundtrack that features a mixture of hip-hop, electronic, and Mexican music along with a song by Leonard Cohen.

The casting by Laura Rosenthal and Rachel Tenner is amazing as it features some notable small roles and appearances from Robert Wisdom as the Rampart station’s captain, Jon Foster and Jon Beranthal as a couple of fellow officers, Steve Buscemi as a district attorney official in Bill Blago, Stella Schnabel as Brown’s new partner early in the film who is perturbed by his actions, Sammy Boyarsky as Brown’s youngest daughter Margaret who questions about what her father has done, Audra McDonald as a one-night stand Brown would be with early in the film, and Ben Foster in a superb role as a homeless vet named the General who often hangs out at a fast food restaurant. Robin Wright is wonderful as the attorney Linda whom Brown would frequently sleep with while he is suspicious that she is spying on him. Ned Beatty is terrific as the former cop Hartshorn who tries to help Brown in any way including moments that would help him only to realize that Brown is his own worst enemy.

Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche are excellent in their respective roles as the sisters Barbara and Catherine as two of Brown’s ex-wives who deal with the coverage of Brown’s activities with Nixon as the more calm of the two and Heche as the one who wants nothing to do with him. Brie Larson is fantastic as Brown’s eldest daughter who despises her father as she also feels humiliated and embarrassed by his actions where she also copes with his own hatred for everyone. Sigourney Weaver is brilliant as the assistant DA Joan Confrey who wants Brown to reveal all of his activities as well as give the man a chance to do what is right. Ice Cube is incredible as the investigator Kyle Timkins who works for the DA’s office as he also tries to implore Brown to do the right thing while revealing what is at stake. Finally, there’s Woody Harrelson in a phenomenal performance as Dave Brown as a dirty LAPD officer who finds himself a big target during one of the lowest points of the LAPD where Harrelson brings a very menacing performance as a man with very little care for the world where he is also his own worst enemy as well as be selfish to the point that he brings shame to his own family including his own daughters.

Rampart is a stellar yet flawed film from Oren Moverman. While it features a great cast led by Woody Harrelson along with Dick Hinchliffe’s score, it’s a film that had all of the tools to be an intriguing character study but it lacks a very cohesive narrative to keep things going. In the end, Rampart is a fine but underwhelming film from Oren Moverman.

Oren Moverman Films: The Messenger - (Time Out of Mind) - (The Dinner (2017 film))

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

I've had this in my Netflix queue for years and always seems to click past it. One day, lol. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

It had been on Showtime and I wanted to see it as I like Oren Moverman and Woody Harrelson. It's not a great film but still a good one despite its lack of a strong resolution.