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Rampart (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack)
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At the heart of Oren Moverman s Rampart is a riveting parable about what happens to a man who refuses to change, even when change is the only thing that can save him. That man is Dave Brown, played by two-time Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson. Though the film is set in the 1990s, when scandal rocked the LAPD s Rampart division, the film hones in on a single fictional cop: Dave Brown, a man who has taken the no guts, no glory American mythos to heart, without questioning what it is doing to him and those he holds dear. He is a cop whose personal life is propelled into a dizzying downward spiral when he comes under suspicion for roughing up a suspect. More than just a police officer who plays things fast and loose, Brown exposes the inner workings of a certain type of personality everyone recognizes around them, a personality very much part of American culture, yet not often examined. He is the kind of man inexorably drawn to authority and power, yet seems destined to abuse it; a man who has dreams of being a great masculine hero, yet is beholden to women; who has undeniable charm, yet whose stubborn refusal to take responsibility for his actions becomes a destructive force against family, community and ultimately himself.
4 STARS!! Woody Harrelson is leaner in Rampart, the skin tight over the skull, the jawline defiant. His eyes are busy. He is a cop in the Los Angeles police district that became notorious in 1999 as a cesspool of corruption, but this man takes corruption with him wherever he goes. The movie is co-written by the unsurpassed crime writer James Ellroy, who no doubt knows enough stories about Rampart to write a dozen movies, but his inspiration here is to make this cop a stand-alone character study, isolated within himself. He doesn't require the reprehensible environment of Rampart. He's self-fueled. Harrelson is an ideal actor for the role. Especially in tensely wound-up movies like this, he implies that he's looking at everything and then watching himself looking. His character, Dave Brown, has no moral center, but he has the survival instincts of a rat, and I say that with all due respect for rats. He always likes to know the way out of a tight corner. He knows an angle he can play or a squirm he can call on. Why is he this way? That question helps explain why the movie is so absorbing, because there is no answer. Rampart lacks the usual plot engines behind crime films, in which motivation comes from money, lust or revenge. Brown behaves in this film primarily just to do bad things. He reminds me of one of the most evil characters in American fiction, Judge Holden in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, a man who likes to torture and kill for no other reason than simply to cause pain. The Harrelson of Rampart could play Judge Holden, and not many actors could. He is an overt racist. He has such contempt for women he cannot always be bothered to use them sexually. He was married to two women (Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon) who are sisters, and apparently this meant so little to all of them that they live in houses next to one another. There was no emotional commitment there for them to engage. He has a daughter by each and is said to have once murdered a rapist because of his feelings for his daughters. Only with a man like Brown would you suspect that was an excuse; more likely, he got started killing the man and didn't feel like stopping. It's that feeling that seems to empower Brown when he does the last thing Rampart district needs in 1999. Eight years after the brutality against Rodney King, Brown is videotaped while beating a suspect. He seems to approach this task like a skilled workman performing a job he loves. Recently there's been a movement to make videotaping of police officers illegal. That would get Dave Brown's vote. This time he doesn't seem to have an escape route ready. The district attorney's office sees him as an ideal target, and Sigourney Weaver is finely focused as an assistant DA who has him in her sights. He also makes the error of trying to pick up a defense attorney (Robin Wright) in just the wrong way at just the wrong time. And he casually insults a black investigator for Internal Affairs (Ice Cube). Rampart is deeply embedded in Los Angeles in the summertime, every day a reminder of the desert that waits patiently to take back the land stolen from it by sprinkler systems. It is hot, the sun is blinding, Brown is sweating, he feels rotten. You cannot live forever with amorality and sadism eating away at you. Even other immoral people around you stand back, because they recognize themselves and fear to go that far. Rampart was directed and co-written with Ellroy by Oren Moverman, whose directorial debut was The Messenger(2009). It also starred Woody Harrelson, In that film, Harrelson's character turns out to have feelings after all. He's such a versatile actor, able to point one way and act in another. Maybe that's why he's so fascinating in Rampart. --Roger Ebert, Sun Times
Time's TOP 10 Movie Performances of 2011. #3 Woody Harrelson in Rampart. For eight years the blithely innocent bartender on Cheers, Woody Harrelson has matured into an actor of wide, weird range. As a media-savvy psycho in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, a porn king fighting for the First Amendment in The People vs. Larry Flynt, a Twinkies-addicted survivor in Zombieland and a bounty hunter in No Country for Old Men, Harrelson put a swagger in every scene, carving out a stark and engaging character: the wild American cowboy riding into the present on a stallion of lunatic machismo. His career topper may be playing Dave Date Rape Brown, an LAPD detective in director Oren Moverman's dark adaptation of a James Ellroy story. A dinosaur among the city's younger men and women in blue, Dave uses brutal methods to enforce the law; now he's under an investigation for beating a motorist, but he won't go down without a fatal fight. Harrelson, who's as worth watching at rest as when he detonates in calculated rage, pours such power into his character that viewers find themselves rooting for Dave even as they move to shield themselves from the imminent immolation. They become Dave's partners in crime, and Harrelson's willing, eager pawns. --Time Magazine
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Harrelson plays an LAPD uniformed cop in 1999. He's the kind of cop who takes justice into his own hands and isn't shy about stealing from the bad guys to pad his own pockets. He smokes and drinks too much. He has a messed up personal life, which includes living with his wife (and their daughter) along with his ex wife (and THEIR daughter) under one roof. He is quite a womanizer. He's also shrewd enough and has instincts sharp enough to steer clear of anything actually being pinned to him. His nickname is "Date Rape" because it is widely believed that a few years prior, he stalked and killed a serial rapist...and this has actually won him some grudging respect.
But he becomes embroiled in a a couple of new scandals, and suddenly is finding he may not quite be able to wiggle out of trouble. As the "system" works against him, he scrambles to hold on to his job, his freedom and his family.
The problem with RAMPART is that every single character is unlikable and most are poorly fleshed out. The movie has what should have been a great cast, but most of the team writer/director Oren Moverman has assembled are only in a small handful of scenes, and their characters are underwritten cliches who are unpleasant to be around. Moverman co-wrote the film with the great James Ellroy (LA CONFIDENTIAL), but this film feels pasted together from pieces of other "corrupt cop" movies and brings nothing new to the table.
Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon play Harrelson's two wives. One dimensional and uninteresting. Steve Buschemi is in one scene and makes no impression. Sigourney Weaver is a generic lawyer or something. Ice Cube is a generic Internal Affairs investigator. Ned Beatty is the deeply chiched "retired corrupt cop who was friends with Harrelson's father and now works to keep him out of trouble, but maybe isn't such a trustworthy fellow afterall." Ben Foster is a wheelchair bound homeless man who holds a secret, but the viewer can't even really care about a character like him in this film...someone who OUGHT to generate some sympathy automatically. The largest supporting roles belong to the usually fantastic Brie Larson (SHORT TERM 12) as Harrelson's oldest daugter, but she's mopey and has been given the most ridiculous rat's nest of a hairstyle, and to Robin Wright, who plays a professional woman who Harrelson picks up one night and they embark on a nonsensical relationship that is ultimately a boring dead end.
Harrelson is good, make no mistake. If this film had been written well or had something really original to say...Harrelson might have seen major awards attention. But really, he's bringing his acting skills to this film, but his natural charm (which he showed in things like the recent TRUE DETECTIVE, where he again played a scoundrel in law enforcement) is utterly missing. Harrelson has a playfulness and an engaging smile whatever he does...but it is absent from RAMPART. He brings intensity and sincerity...and does a fine job of showing us a bad man slowly falling apart. But it is not nearly enough to actually make this movie enjoyable or compelling to watch. It is, in the end, boring. That's about the worst sin a film can commit.
In addition to the sisters (Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche), Brown seems to hit it off with the ladies in general, especially an attorney named Linda (Robin Wright) who he meets in a bar. Brown need money to help his defense against charges the city is about to bring, so works with an ex-cop (Ned Beatty) to get the low down on a high stakes card game. Brown doesn't go there to play cards however. Due to bad luck or targeted action by unknown people, Brown's plan goes haywire and he's in even more hot water. While Brown is cool and quick on his feet and with his words, his predicament combined with his unraveling relationship with his daughters moves him toward deeper despair.
Director and co-writer (with James Ellroy) Oren Moverman has his second outing with Harrelson in the lead. As in "The Messenger," Moverman has recognized the acting talent he has with Harrelson and pretty much just lets him roll. The cast is buoyed by Sigourney Weaver as one of the civilians in charge of the investigation, Ben Foster, unrecognizable as homeless man and Ice Cube as the police investigator charged with bringing Brown down. Unfortunately, there seemed to be only one way out for Brown, but Moverman's conclusion left me cold.
The Blu ray version I have is the single disc. Special features include a director's commentary track, cast and crew interviews and a behinds the scenes extra. The video transfer is an excellent 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are excellent and the detail especially crisp on the many close ups. The audio is likewise exemplary. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is clear and specific. The street scenes are really highlighted in the surrounds.