What is there to say about Rampart? Well, the cover states Woody Harrelson plays “The Most Corrupt Cop You’ve Ever Seen on Screen”. That corrupt cop is Dave Brown, a veteran of the force who’s lost all possible perspective and truly believes he’s doing just what is necessary to do his job in the most corrupt precinct in Los Angeles. Whether that’s beating a suspect to pulp or joking around with a female rookie, he just doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with his behaviour. And that goes so far that this way of thinking has even invaded his personal life. He’s had relationships with two sisters, has a daughter with each, and lives right next to them without ever having the feeling this is – to say the least – a bit weird.
When he gets filmed beating a black man after a traffic accident, internal affairs opens up an investigation against him which completely distorts the tight balance that was present in his life.
When you see the cover and read the back, you can’t but think of such movies like Bad Lieutenant (with Harvey Keitel), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call (with Nicholas Cage) or Training Day (Denzel Washington). Qua atmosphere, Rampart resembles mostly the original Bad Lieutenant by Abel Ferrara but with the major distinction that Harvey Keitel’s character tries to redeem himself. Woody Harrelson’s Dave Brown doesn’t. Dave is convinced he’s doing the right thing for all the right reasons and he spends his time justifying his every questionable action to the smallest detail. When being accused of bigotry, he responds to a (black) internal affairs agent “Bear in mind that I am not a racist. Fact is, I hate all people equally. And if it helps, I’ve slept with some of your people. You wanna be mad at someone, try J. Edgar Hoover. He was a racist. Or the Founding Fathers, all slave-owners.”. And that quote sums up Brown just nicely. Everyone is to blame except himself.
Having said that, the question is whether Rampart manages to truly grab you. Well, it’s a bit of a hit and miss. It’s a heavy movie with a skilled cast and Harrelson gives once again the best of himself, but the story is so dark and depressing that the film could use something to bring relief to the viewer at times. And that relief just never arrives. Just like in Bad Lieutenant you go on a downwards spiral from the first minute to the last second but at no time is there even a shimmer of a light or a bit of hope for Harrelson’s character, making you wonder what the point of it all is.
As such, Rampart will not appeal to everyone and those longing for another Training Day can easily pass this one by as they’ll for sure be let down. This isn’t your average cop-gone-bad movie but a dark portrait of a man who doesn’t even realise he’s bad and has no intention of trying to take responsability for his actions.
Rampart comes with technically very good image quality but things look extremely gritty and the whites are very overblown to give things a bleached look when the LA sun shines on them. Blacks are very inky and overall the image look a lot like that from the series The Shield. Audio-wise, Rampart is all about dialogue, but the surrounds do get a lot of action with plenty of background noises. The subwoofer doesn’t get a lot of work, but the scene where Brown goes out one night does allow it to shine when he enters a club and the basses start pounding, making your living room windows tremble.