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There’s something in our DNA that makes us love the rebel on the right side of the tracks, the renegade looking to stir the pot. Whether it is Detective Vic Mackey in The Shield or Bad Lieutenant’s Terence McDonagh, there is no bigger anti-hero in American cinema than the bad cop with a tortured soul and a hidden heart of goodness. Channeling our western Machiavellian spirit, director writer Oren Moverman adds another name to bad cop hall of fame — Officer Dave Brown in Rampart.

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.

  1. CMrok93 says:

    The film itself is not for everyone but Harrelson’s performance is given a great challenge, and he more than rises to the occasion with this near-perfect act. Great review. Check out mine when you can.

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