Woody Harrelson's tour de force performance in Rampart is reminiscent of Oscar winner Denzel Washington's in Training Day. Harrelson should also have been nominated for an Oscar . Washington portrays the day in the life of a dirty cop as he trains a rookie cop. Harrelson (David Brown) portrays the last of the renegade cops as he struggles between his personal and his professional life and the conflicts in working in a dirty police force as a dirty cop. How these pressures affect those around him such as his two wives, Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche, his two children, his love interest Robin Wright, and the police force represented by head honcho Sigourney Weaver is what this film is about. Ice Cube plays an internal affairs officer intent on bringing our man Brown down. This is an ensemble piece and all of the acting is top notch, but Oren Movermen's direction has problems. He can direct acting and actually has you care about Brown, but there are times when the film lags.
There is a visit to a sex dungeon in 1999 downtown LA which is filmed in a fascinating technique, but at times is too vague to allow us to understand the images we are partially seeing. This is irritating. Instead of imagining what would be going on, I lost interest. Wrong move on Movermen's part. The pace of the film is a problem. The cinematography by Bobby Bokowski is exciting and creative save for this dungeon sequence which is both the high and low of visual effects. That is when you can fathom what is happening it is exciting, but when it shuts down and becomes black, we have no choice but to shut down as well. Harrelson's vomiting after eating, drinking and seeing too much debauchery is champion and moves one to feeling for his need to abuse his body and his deep self-loathing.
Don't look for any moral or happy ending. The talented James Ellroy has co-written with Moverman a grim bleak tale. "I don't cheat on my taxes," Brown says, 'You can't cheat on something you never committed to." This quote is vintage Ellroy whose mother was murdered as recalled in the Black Dahlia scandal and her murderer was never discovered hence Ellroy has become one of our nation's top crime writers. His gritty dialogue makes this film work when the pace lags. Date Rape Brown after waiting at a bar for Wright says to her, "You nearly got me killed while you were out looking for a bone to chew on."
Rampart is derived from the 1999 Rampart Scandal and the LAPD C.R.A.S.H. units involved.
Bleak as it is, it is worth seeing. Not only for the acting, but also for the memory of what a corrupt police force can do to our society.