by Jake Peffer
Despite their job to try and protect us from crime and being hurt, there are a lot of dirty cops in this world. We’ve seen numerous movies and TV shows try to take on this subject. Sometimes it works (The Shield) and other times it doesn’t (Street Kings). So the question is, where does Oren Moverman’s Rampart fall on that spectrum?
Rampart is a character study set in 1999 Los Angeles that follows officer Dave Brown, played by Woody Harrelson. Brown has been a police officer for many years and has done his fair share of things that most would consider to be wrong for a cop to do. Most recently, he chased down a man that ran into his car and brutally beat him in public. This incident just happened to be caught on tape and shown to the public. Dave’s bosses feel they may need to get rid of him because of his dirty ways but Dave continues to try and play the good guy when he’s around the people higher up than him. All the while he has two daughters that he feels are the only good things to come in his life but their mother’s aren’t too fond of Dave anymore and he has to prove that he can be a good father despite being a crooked cop.
This movie was interesting to me in a few ways. In the beginning I thought it had potential. It started a little slow but I was interested to see where it would go. Once it gets about thirty minutes in is where I started to get less and less interested. There seem to be just too many sub plots throughout the movie and none of which would be considered the main plot. Since it’s a character study that’s understandable but at the same time the movie had no direction and that I felt it certainly needed.
It was great to see Woody Harrelson get a starring role here. He really does give a good performance and is without a doubt the only reason to check out this movie. The supporting cast here is great but none of them are really given anything to do. I mean you’ve got so many great actors like Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, Steve Buscemi and Ice Cube but none of them amount to much. Toward the end of the movie they bring in Ice Cube and it starts getting interesting with his character but before anything happens with him the movie just ends. It was like they had somewhere this could go in the end but decided to leave it out and just go for a very open-ended ending.
One thing that was a major problem for me here was the camera work. Camera work is something that I don’t even really notice that much unless it’s really well done or it’s really poor. Here, it is done so poorly that it’s very hard to watch certain scenes because you can’t even see what’s happening. There’s a scene in particular where Dave is sitting in a room in front of a window and the sun is shining through and is getting in the way of him and most of the shot, so it looks like it’s not only coming though the window but also bouncing off a mirror as well. It seems like they tried to be creative with the camera work but it ended up just being a direction a lot of the time.
I do give the movie points for being quite realistic. You can believe everything that happens here and most of the interactions between the characters feels very genuine. The dialogue also helped in making this movie feel realistic. Scenes with Dave and his daughters in particular were quite good because of the dialogue, as well as the acting. It just doesn’t help that all the realistic aspects of the movie get weighed down by a fairly weak story, bad camera work and no sense of direction.
In the end, the movie is watchable but if your expecting something along the lines of Training Day or even The Shield then you’re watching the wrong movie.