More ‘docu’ than ‘drama’ with Harrelson’s ‘Rampart’

Rampart (2011)

Directed by Oren Moverman

6/10  R

Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers (my main inspiration as a film reviewer) rarely disappoints me. But with his raving review of “Rampart,” a docudrama about a 1999 cop in L.A. portrayed by Woody Harrelson, I expected a movie with more punch. What I got was a lousy story of a bigot and sex addict (“Training Day” meets “Shame”), a sexist and racist and every other -ist you could think if.

Dave Brown (Harrelson) is the bigot I’m speaking of. He says things like “Illegal is just a sick bird” and thinks himself above the law…like a bird flying too close to the sun. I mean, he’s so bad he can only manage to do half of the good cop/bad cop routine. He splits his home (where he lives with his two wives, who are also sisters, and their daughters, who are also cousins) when he sleeps around with one too many women, and loses the daughters he loves to the gossip of his wrongdoings.

Unfortunately, “Rampart” happens to be all talk…and no action. Director Oren Moverman (“The Messenger,” which is much better) had some guts to make a bad cop movie (both a bad cop and a bad movie) with little action. The crux of the film’s plot is a single beating, a la Rodney King, that took mere seconds to transpire. There were some other deaths, but nothing shocking or exciting or dramatic. And it ends on a confusing note, but thankfully it ended at all. 108 minutes seems like forever…needless to say, slow and steady doesn’t win Academy Awards (but it can get nominations!)

Harrelson is dangerously good; I won’t take that away from him. His performance was enough to make the movie seem like a documentary, which is good. But the dizzying cinematography was too much to handle. Even the film’s star-studded cast (Steve Buscemi, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, Robin Wright, Ben Foster, Ned Beatty, Ice Cube) couldn’t save this dud. It managed to stay mostly typical of other bad cop films. It didn’t reach the level of “Training Day,” like I’d hoped it would. It managed to be boring, and I say that reluctantly. My hopes were as high as Dave Brown’s self-confidence. And they were shot down.

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