Sunday, May 13, 2012
Written by James Ellroy and Oren Moverman
Directed by Oren Moverman
Starring Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty and Ben Foster
Dave Brown: Bear in mined, I’m not a racist. Fact is, I hate all people equally.
There is only one reason RAMPART, Oren Moverman’s second directorial effort works as well as it does and that is Woody Harrelson. As a corrupt cop whose 24 years of questionable service in the Los Angeles Police Department are finally catching up with him and we are there to witness him spiral out of control. The beauty of Harrelson’s performance is that his particular fall from grace is executed with nothing but the most brilliant of technical control.
Moverman’s first film as a feature director is THE MESSENGER, another film that features a powerhouse performance by Harrelson. Moverman even received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the screenplay. With RAMPART though, he seems to have lost some of the confidence one would have expected would have just grown exponentially from his first success. His work with the actors continues to shine (including bleak but brave performances from Ben Foster and Robin Wright) but his visual approach here is amateurish. You can feel the constant need to be edgy or try new things, which only serves to take us out of the moment instead of draw us in deeper. Still, Harrelson is there to anchor everything.
RAMPART also boasts a screenwriting credit from L.A. crime writing expert, James Ellroy. His work with Moverman here is at times a bit ambitious in terms of the unwieldy web they try to weave but the character of Dave Brown himself is the best of their collaboration. As the audience, we are privy to so many of his darker moments and Harrelson, whom we know can lose his temper without notice in the part, exhibits so much restraint and internal struggle that by the time some of his walls begin to crumble, we can feel both the weight of the pain and the relief of the release. The film may not stay with you but the performance will.