DVD Review: Rampart

Rampart DVD boxSTUDIO: Millennium | DIRECTOR: Oren Moverman | CAST: Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Foster, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Brie Larson
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 5/15/2012 | PRICE: DVD $28.99, Blu-ray $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $34.99
BONUSES: featurette; BD adds commentary
SPECS: R | 107 min. | Crime drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0/Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The second collaboration between director Oren Moverman and actor Woody Harrelson (Friends With Benefits) following their Oscar-nominated work in The Messenger, the crime drama Rampart offers a 180 degree shift in style from their previous effort. While The Messenger—and its story of soldiers assigned to tell relatives that their loved ones have been lost at war– found its power in quiet moments, Rampart is shot with hand-held cameras, edited in rapid-fire fashion.

Rampart movie sceneThe story, co-written by Moverman and James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential)  is set in the late 1990s against the backdrop of the Los Angeles “Rampart” police scandal. It centers on Harrelson’s Dave “Date Rape” Brown, a boozing, out-of-control maverick cop who’s under scrutiny by the Internal Affairs Department and the assistant DA (Sigourney Weaver, Paul).  At the same time, Brown has an unusual home life, living with his daughter and both his lover (Anne Heche, Cedar Rapids) and her sister (Cynthia Nixon,TV’s The Big C), who also happens to be his ex-wife. At the same time, he becomes involved with an attorney (Robin Wright, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who may or may not be investigating him.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, you’re right. In fact, there appears to be too much going on. Moverman has trouble juggling all of the elements together as peripheral characters essayed by such actors as Ned Beatty (Rango), Ben Foster (Pandorum) and Steve Buscemi (TV’s Boardwalk Empire) come and go and offer pieces to a big, sloppy puzzle that never quite fits together.

But Harrelson offers a snarling, mesmerizing performance that stands proudly at the center of the film. It’s just unfortunate that Rampart, like Harrelson’s character, is a  fierce creation that is also deeply flawed.

Bonus features include a making-of featurette and a commentary track by Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, wherein the two discuss shooting in and around Los Angeles and how they did their damnedest to make their LAPD genre film different from all the other ones they’ve seen.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.