For his sophomore feature, Oren Moverman builds upon and enlarges The Messenger's study in masculinity by taking up the stereotype of the lawless, corrupt cop that novelist James Ellroy placed at the heart of his novels, and drilling down deep inside it with the help of a superb performance from Woody Harrelson. Rampart was an original script by Mr. Ellroy revised by Mr. Moverman, who originally came on board only as a writer, into a film that is simultaneously faithful to the essence of the novelist's characters while keeping its distance from its more obvious characteristics.

     The 1999 disintegration of LAPD beat cop Dave "Date Rape" Brown (Mr. Harrelson) into a mess of hallucinations and paranoia after he becomes a scapegoat for the Rampart Division's corruption problems is a judicious, methodical deconstruction of the police procedural that trims Mr. Ellroy's script of all excess fat while retaining its key element of burrowing down into the headspace of flawed heroes. Rampart thus becomes an Ellroy fever dream stylized into random chaos by Mr. Moverman's highly formalist, burned-out visuals and his ejection of all unnecessary plot points; all that remains is almost a dark parody of cop movies, a sad-clown take on all the movie cop cliches (the inability to hold a relationship, the family struggles, the boozing, the smoking, the whoring, the violence) transcended by the commitment of both director and lead actor to making this paranoid thug a human being put up against a wall. Mr. Harrelson's tour de force performance confirms him as a resourceful, under-appreciated actor, one that Mr. Moverman seems to be able to guide to places he's never been to.

     Ultimately, Rampart may be disappointing as a straight-forward mystery or procedural, but it's quite clear that was never what the director was aiming at - and the finished film is a lot better for it.

Woody Harrelson; Ned Beatty, Francis Capra, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Robert Wisdom, Robin Wright; Steve Buscemi.
     Director, Oren Moverman; screenplay, James Ellroy, Mr. Moverman; cinematography, Bobby Bukowski (colour, digital intermediate by Foto-kem, widescreen); music, Dickon Hinchcliffe; designer, David Wasco; costumes, Catherine George; editor, Jay Rabinowitz; producers, Lawrence Inglee, Clark Peterson, Mr. Foster, Ken Kao (Lightstream Pictures and Waypoint Entertainment in association with The Third Mind Pictures), USA, 2011, 108 minutes.
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9 (Lisbon), May 30th 2012. 


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