Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Rampart' Offers Another Arresting Role for Harrelson

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Rampart' Offers Another Arresting Role for Harrelson

Article excerpt

"Rampart" patrols some familiar streets, but this jarringly intimate study of a dirty Los Angeles cop sliding, crazily, down the drain has a distinctive new-cliche smell, pungent and alive.

The story, which is more about observation than propulsion, suits what interests the filmmakers most: the scary charisma and dazzling hubris of Officer Dave Brown, played with wholehearted ferocity by Woody Harrelson.

This is co-writer and director Oren Moverman's second feature behind the camera. His first, "The Messenger," co-starred Mr. Harrelson in an Oscar-nominated performance as a U.S. Army casualty notifications officer, the bearer of very bad news.

In "Rampart," Mr. Harrelson's character is the bad news. A 24- year veteran of the LAPD, Dave -- nicknamed "Date Rape Dave," for the sex criminal he targeted and then killed some years earlier -- longs for the old days, before the Rampart Division scandal led to a crackdown on all the freestyle brutality. "This used to be a glorious soldiers department," he says.

His life has complications. Dave lives with not one but two ex- wives who are also sisters, played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche.

They coexist in a comfortable, upper-middle-class compound, along with two daughters, one by each ex. Increasingly intent on getting Dave to take his toxic, controlling act elsewhere, Ms. Nixon's character pleads: "You gotta let us go." No chance, Dave replies. The family, such as it is, must be kept together.

The movie takes place in 1999. When Dave is caught on video beating a man half to death, "Rampart" consciously echoes a host of real-life LAPD infractions of that time.

Dave is a volatile master of coercion, blackmail, graft and self- interest, and he learned from his betters, one of whom (a friend of the family) is played by Ned Beatty, grimy to the core. …

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