Set against the backdrop of the real-life police corruption in Los Angeles’ Rampart division in the 1990s, Dave “Date Rape” Brown (Woody Harrelson) is already a nightmare for the PR department. He killed (or may not have killed) a serial date rapist in cold blood (hence the nickname) and he beats unarmed men with a nightstick in broad daylight. Things aren’t a picnic at home either after fathering two children with two sisters (yeah, I know). Despite his flaws, Brown still does his job — he gets the bad guys off the street. But caught up in the scandal, he becomes an easy target for politicians and lawyers to address a harder problem.
The film’s standout is Harrelson — using every tool in his arsenal to play a complex and tormented, attractively demonic officer-family man. Unlike his thematic bad-cop peers, Rampart makes it really tough for us to actually like Officer Brown. We should in fact, hate him. But Harrelson doesn’t allow us to — he’s volatile and addicting, his best work since Larry Flynt. I don’t know if he will, but he should receive attention from the Academy.
The reason why it won’t lies in the film itself. Despite Harrelson’s best efforts and the highly-enjoyable sparring between Harrelson and the star-studded supporting cast, the premise runs dry halfway through. It starts with a bang, but muddles through a monotonous, trudging affair before reaching its conclusion. And it doesn’t really matter how satisfying the ending is or not. Because by then, I’m drained from the middle.