Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rampart Review

I can't really explain it.  I really like Woody Harrelson.  Ever since Cheers, I've thought he was a good actor with terrific comic timing.  And maybe that's it.  He needs to be doing comedy.  A good example is Zombieland.  When he does that, he's much better.  In Rampart, Harrelson plays David "Date Rape" Brown;  a corrupt slimeball LA cop who is at the forefront of a police brutality scandal.  What little family life he has is falling apart and his whole existence is spiralling out of control.  The problem is that, when Harrelson plays this type of character, he tends to underperform.  And in Rampart, he forces his lines in a manner that almost seems like he's trying to remind the audience that the film is about him and a possible Oscar bid.  It comes off as very unbelievable.  Because Rampart focuses so much on him, this gets magnified.  The other characters are one-dimensional and exist solely to hasten Brown's downfall.  And that's a shame really because the film features some great actors in Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, Cynthia Nixon, Ben Foster and Robin Wright.  But these actors never get the opportunity to be what they can really be.  The most intriguing was Foster's performance as the handicapped addict, General.  But he only got a couple of scenes.

The acting isn't the only problem with this film.  The story really has no discernable plot.  There's this loosely put together story of the scandal but it jumps around between that, Brown's past transgressions, his family life, his relationship with Wright, etc.  Without a cohesive plot line, it just becomes a series of almost random acts of debauchery and corruption that make no real sense.  Case in point: at one point, Brown goes to some underground sex club for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON!  If there was a reason, I missed it because it was later in the film and I had completely lost interest.  It was a scene that tried to be expository in an artsy way and just derailed an already fragile film.

The production value was pretty decent though.  They made very good use of lighting and locations throughout to make it realistic.  The best one I can think of was the encounter on the beach between Brown and Hartshorn (Beatty).  We normally think of beaches as being almost fantasy and a getaway from life.  But having the industrial factory-like building in the background really kept the viewer grounded in the theme of the movie.  Rampart is really full of these types of shots.  It's a shame though because it isn't enough to outweigh the poor performance from Harrelson, the lack of plot and the unbelievably slow pace to the movie.

Don't see it.  There's so many better gritty cop dramas out there.  Start with Heat and work your way through.

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