(No longer in theaters)
Feb 10, 2012
Oren Moverman’s Rampart is a conversion melodrama manqué, which means the moral awakening comes too late to do anyone onscreen any good. The protagonist is a brazenly racist L.A. cop, David Brown (Woody Harrelson in Cro-Magnon mode), who once killed a serial date-rapist and now likens himself to a glorious soldier—the last of them in a world going p.c. and soft. To shake up a new female officer, he steers off the road toward a group of Latinos while reciting his standard operating procedure: “Aim for the shortest wetback, watch them skedaddle, plow the dices and the Schlitz-malt-liquor cans, and hit your siren in farewell.” Then he does just that. What he doesn’t count on is a video camera catching his next glorious act: the prolonged beating of a man who crashed into his cruiser and tried to flee.
The rest of Rampart (named for the L.A. community) is characters telling Brown at length what a horrible husband, father, cop, and human being he is and Brown telling them—in laughably hyperliterate language—why he’s a hero who only hurt bad people. All the while the camera is circling and moving in on good actors (Robin Wright, Audra McDonald, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty) doing their semi-improvisational thing to try to look like nonactors. As Brown becomes more flagrantly self-destructive and at the same time more deluded, you realize you’re watching Bad Lieutenant made by a tediously finger-wagging Jew instead of a tediously desecrating Catholic.