After writer/director Oren Moverman’s 2009 collaboration with Woody Harrelson on The Messenger took two years to reach British shores, their next film has found British distribution easier to come by with their fascinating crime-drama Rampart. It’s a hard film to enjoy but one that takes its main character on a journey that is compelling as it shows a man’s life slowly unravelling.

Harrelson is Dave Brown, nicknamed ‘Date rape Dave’ (a name that refers to an old case) and he’s a thoroughly unpleasant character to watch; a sexist, racist dinosaur empowered by his uniform. When he’s seen beating a man in public it creates a scandal for the Rampart division of the LA Police force who leave him out to dry.

…a deep and complex performance with Harrelson commanding the screen in every moment.

Harrelson reveals Brown to be a multi-faceted character; a man deep in crisis desperately hanging onto his job while staving off the impending implosion of his family back home. It is a deep and complex performance with Harrelson commanding the screen in every moment. Brown is an ugly, unrepentant man (he even married two sisters in succession, having a child with both of them). He beats suspects, lies and when backed into a corner his only thought is to lash out or avoid the issue. It is an exciting and thoroughly compelling performance from the actor.

It is down to Harrelson that you feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Brown as he self-destructs and disappears into an amoral abyss: A pit of self-loathing from which he attempts to dig himself out of, making the situation worse and threatening to bring everyone down with him with the last shot of the film emphasising a truth that is hard for Brown to accept. Rampart is a searing portrait of a man who doesn’t seem to have a decent bone in his body.

4 Stars

Image courtesy of StudioCanal



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