AFI FEST 2011: Rampart
My Flickchart Ranking: #934
[disclaimer: I had to cut out of the last 20 minutes of the film to get in line for the next screening. My review only reflects up until that point. It might have gotten better.]
I can count the number of Police Dramas I’ve seen on one hand, and for good reason. The genre just doesn’t interest me all that much. Some of it has to do with the trappings of the genre – the rogue cop with aviator shades, the hardened chief ready to kick ass and the sarcastic detective who is more or less a jerk – but a majority of it is just that the plots are never all that engaging. And this film is no exception.
Rampart is the story of Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), a hard-boiled police officer caught in the middle of a scandal involving the LA Rampart division. As his career deteriorates, so does his personal life. His wife and ex-wife kick him out of their homes, and his estranged daughter defies him every chance she gets. The only means he has to cope are through his job and his evening trysts with Linda, played by Robin Wright. Eventually, even those come under fire.
What works in this film is the setting; Los Angeles looks absolutely exotic. The cinematography brings out the heat and the grime of the rougher neighborhoods quite unlike any of the other police dramas that I’ve seen. At risk of sounding cliche, the location is just as much a character as anyone else in the film, which is good thing considering everything else goes for middle-of-the-road.
I’m referring first and foremost to the acting. Woody Harrelson never quite owns the role of Dave Brown, oscillating between Mickey Knox from Natural Born Killers and Tallahassee from Zombieland. It’s more than a bit distracting and by the end of the film I’m no closer to his headspace than the camera. Everyone else in the film phones it in, falling back on their personas to guide their characters. As much as I enjoyed Steve Buscemi’s role in the film, it was just a modern Nucky Thompson with a dirtier mouth. And Sigourney Weaver didn’t really do much other than be in a state constant agitation.
And then there’s the story. It’s typical and plays out like pretty much every other police story I’ve seen. Granted, my experience in the genre is limited, but there was never a moment in this film where I wasn’t plagued by severe deja vu.
If police dramas are your bag, then this film will probably appeal to you. Otherwise, you aren’t missing much by passing this one by.