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Rampart (Blu-ray Review)

8 May, 2012 By: Billy Gil

Street 5/15/12
Box Office $0.96 million
$28.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, $34.99 Blu-ray combo pack
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence.
Stars Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon.

Rampart on the surface looks at police corruption, particularly in Los Angeles during the 1999 Rampart scandal, but truthfully is more a dissection of machismo. 

Woody Harrelson stars as David Douglas Brown, a tough talkin’ and tougher actin’ cop on the L.A. beat in 1999, when a scandal rocked the Rampart Division in which widespread corruption was revealed, including unprovoked attacks on behalf of the police, planting evidence, dealing narcotics and more. Brown, a charismatic Vietnam War veteran with as much brains as brawn, is caught on tape beating a man after the man’s car slams into his cop car and the man hits Brown with his car door and tries to escape.

While the evidence at hand would appear to at least be mixed — the man attacked Brown, after all, and tried to escape — the video doesn’t look good, and keep in mind this is just eight years after the Rodney King beating, and the subsequent trial of the police officers involved, and the L.A. Riots after those officers were acquitted. This is all not to mention the fact that Brown allegedly killed a serial date rapist years before, branding him with the endearing moniker “Date Rape,” which even his rebel daughter calls him.

No amount of booze and women can drive away Brown’s blues, earning him the scorn of his two daughters, their mothers — who are sisters and live together, played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche (don’t ask) — a hardass assistant D.A. (Sigourney Weaver), his new similarly drunk lawyer girlfriend (Robin Wright) and just about anyone else in his life.

We don’t exactly feel sympathy for Brown as he devolves, but we can’t look away, either, as Harrelson scores once again under the direction and co-writing of Oren Moverman (who helmed 2009’s excellent The Messenger, also with Harrelson and Ben Foster, who plays a homeless junkie from Brown’s war past in Rampart).

Some elements don’t ring true — Rampart leaves its many female co-stars with two-dimensional roles that feel underwritten and distracting rather than supportive — but as a humanizing take on police corruption and brave exploration of male ego, Rampart is a welcome addition to the force.

About the Author: Billy Gil

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