1 hour 48 minutes

Rated R (Pervasive Language, Sexual Content and Some Violence)

Directed by Oren Moverman

Starring Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, and Steve Buscemi

3 out of 4 stars


In Rampart Woody Harrelson plays Dave Brown, a dirty L.A. cop. He’s very dirty. He’s a racist, homophobic, corrupt, womanizing, immoral, raging, alcoholic, and dead-beat dad living with his ex-wife, two daughters (one of which hates him to death), and his ex-wife’s sister, who also hates him to death. Harrelson is incredible here, definitely being overlooked at this awards season. He’s just plain brilliant at playing an unlikable character. He’s got the shaved head, the eyes, and the body structure that make you think he’s gonna snap at any second. At the same time there were moments where I actually cared for this monster. He does love his girls. He is aware that he’s a nasty man. He’s aware that he can’t stop it even though deep down it feels like he wants to. It’s like Bonnie and Clyde. You can’t help but slap yourself and say “No stop you can’t like this person he’s such an ass!”

This is that type of movie where you just sit and observe this man’s life. His life does get worse. The stories around the people in his life do get messy and do make the movie feel disjointed at times. Many people won’t like this. I did find it irritating at times but also riveting. There’s a story involving him and the following people: Robin Wright, an almost unrecognizable Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty, and Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon. I liked some of these subplots but some (like Ben Foster’s) felt a little unnecessary. As messy as the movie might seem though it is undoubtedly fast-paced. Some events happen (like one in particular in which Harrelson chases three men with a bunch of money and shoots and kills two of them) and then disappear but they’re supposed to because it’s a movie from the point of view of this character. For Dave Brown this is just another ordinary night of being a terrible cop.

The handheld camerawork might also irritate people but the way it follows Brown around is very hypnotic. Moverman isn’t making you sympathize or necessarily despise this man. This is a crazy movie with different subplots but if Dave Brown really existed I’m sure his life would seem this hectic as well. Moverman made another movie with Harrelson and Ben Foster in 2009 called The Messenger (which earned Harrelson on Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). I think that movie is much much more organized than this one and more haunting. I’m not hating though. Rampart is a hypnotic journey into the life of a terrible human being.

I’ll lastly say that there’s a similar movie like Rampart that also came out in 2009 called Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, by the legendary Werner Herzog. Nicolas Cage (who’s surprisingly great) plays a dirty cop like Harrelson. The movie is equally as strange and a thousand times more haunting than this one.