Rampart.

24 Apr

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Whenever I begin to put fingertip to laptop keyboard and write a review I make an attempt to do a certain amount of research. It may not be a huge amount but I at least want to ensure that I am not writing from a place of sheer consumerism (i.e. I see an awesome trailer, I buy the film, I love the film, now read all my rants and raves about it based on a purely emotional experience). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy including the passion I have for multimedia within my reviews as I find often journalism that is kept within the confines of its setting can be quite stilted and shallow, but saying to my readers, ‘Hey man watch this just cos its awesome!’ is as equally shallow. So I try to find that middle ground, where I will tell you how the experience was for me all the while trying to encourage you to find out for yourself – nothing should ever be taken at face value.

Whilst researching Rampart (2012), Oren Movermans corrupt-cop drama, I navigated my way to the comforting world of IMDB to see what others thought of the film I had just watched. Here I was presented with an abundance of reviews that were the exact carnation of what I as a writer try to avoid. One user commented, ‘If I was at the screening I would have booed’, which as well as being a highly unlikely statement to make was about as much substance as they had managed to muster. Another proclaimed that, ‘not much really happens throughout the movie other then just watching Woody Harrelson walk around and talk tough’. I assure you the latter is untrue.

Based upon a true story, where more than 70 police officers in the anti-gang unit of the LAPD during the 1990’s were questioned regarding several forms of misconduct, Rampart follows the life of Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), the last of the renegade cops in LA, who after being videotaped beating the man he got into a car accident with, has to fight for his own survival both in his job and the family around him. Immediately we are presented with and drawn into Brown’s intelligent and calculated world, where through extensive experience and ample amounts of time, he manages to use everything and anyone in order to get his own way.

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Harrelson is the huge driving force of this film. As Dave, this is all about him and his character; his world, his rules, his consequences. Much like you would expect judging by previous roles (Mickey Knox – Natural Born Killers, 1994) Woody is able to make even the most vile of characters tolerable, not likeable but tolerable, with emotive and lasting performances. He is also surrounded by a high calibre cast, for however brief a time (Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi merely appearing for a scene or two), and this helps to serve as a rest bite in his ever-spiralling world. Ben Foster plays General Terry, a local street drug addict with whom Dave occasionally stops to speak too and is almost unrecognisable with his beard laden face and dirty clothes. He sits beside Dave’s cop car twitching and stammering and for me his performance resonates far more than any other – a side to Foster that we haven’t seen before but should be at the forefront of his career choices (I mean intense characters in general, not strictly drug addicts).

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So aside from the performances, what does this film have? Not a lot according to the IMDB users and in some respects they would be right. Rampart is a story about life’s complexities and how just when you think you have it all it can quickly disappear. Dave Brown believes he is untouchable; he manages to keep both his ex partners who are also sisters at booty-call length, he knows the law and uses it wisely to come unstuck from certain situations and he takes no responsibility for the people who are left hurt in his path of destruction. However it’s open ending and snail-paced speed could make even the most hardcore of ‘indie’ fans turn off their screens but if you go into this expecting a dirty-cop version of Die Hard with explosions and a happy ending then you’ll be reaching for that remote pretty quickly.

Rampart is an uncomfortable, harsh and profoundly honest ride where raw emotion and character are the things pulling us all through. I touched upon this point earlier that as an audience we should never take things at face value as you may not get what you came for but with Rampart, you will damn sure leave with something.

Selling Point – The films ability to be simplistic and complex at the same time and its resonance long after its open-ending.

Quote-a-rama – Dave Brown – ‘I don’t cheat on my taxes… you can’t cheat on something you never committed to.’

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