Published Feb 23, 2012Because the tropes of the corrupt cop drama are so cinematically ubiquitous, slickly defined by intense stylization and standard issue morality, Rampart's loose aesthetic and hazy exploration of the subjective allow the freedom to escape the machinations of its predetermined, tragic narrative.
Even though LAPD Officer Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) exists in the vacuum of the familiar, representing a dying movement of contrary cowboy misdeeds in 1999 Los Angeles, after being caught on tape brutally beating an African American, this story is one of personal delusion and justification more so than historical didactics.
Shot much like Moverman's somewhat more impressive directorial debut, The Messenger, this sun-drenched, washed-out ode to ideological shifts immerses us in the world of a man so unapologetically self-centered and set in his freewheeling ways that the concept of violence having victims beyond the physical recipient genuinely astounds him.
Moverman's narrative evades the bureaucracy that Brown is convinced he can escape by focusing attention on self-destructive sexual escapades with district attorney Linda Fentress (Robin Wright) and hateful exchanges with his ex-wives (Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche).
Even while peripheral characters like Sigourney Weaver's unimpressed DA stare at Brown slack-jawed as he spews unnecessary, arbitrary verbosity as a means of awkward self-preservation, the focus is still the subjective sense of escape and personal rightness. Until Brown admits fallibility, acknowledging that his lies and reassurances aren't convincing his increasingly alienated daughters, we're similarly sheltered from the inevitable reality that will come.
If there is an issue with this impressively acted and conceived character piece, it's that the loathsome nature of our protagonist almost forces judgment and a personal rejection of engagement. Since it's difficult to identify with Brown's constant morally bankrupt id impulses, even if they might be true to our sense of self, a necessary sense of distance hinders emotional investment.
This is where Rampart intentionally strays from The Messenger, which was more comprehensively engaging, but slightly less intelligent. (eOne)