Rampart DVD Review

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

And sometimes you’d really rather not, like officer David Brown feels in Rampart.

Caught on tape beating the living daylights out of some punk who drove into his police car before further assaulting our not quite heroic officer of the law with a well-aimed car door, Brown is swiftly made persona non grata at his Rampart police precinct that he’s come to treat as his own personal thiefdom.

In fact, so perfectly was this set up captured on videotape, happily missing his supposed victim’s initial acts of aggression and who only got what was coming to him, Brown starts to feel events are conspiring a little too conveniently against him.

So he begins investigating the matter on his own time, of which he now has plenty of.

While his once idyllic working life starts to unravel around him, Brown’s personal life is an even unholier mess.

In a nutshell, Brown lives with his two ex-wives, who also happen to be sisters, and his alienated daughters, one from each ex, the youngest of whom wonders whether she’s inbred or not.

Which sounds more like a nuthouse to me.

With such a complicated family situation, Dirty Dave graciously decides to give the ladies in his life a little common ground they can bond over; namely a shared hatred of his every brainless act.

If my home life was this bad, I’d probably take my frustrations out on the less than fair citizens of Los Angeles in much the same as Brown metes out his personal brand of justice.

But as his two worlds come tumbling down, will Brown work out what lies at the root of all his problems?

Written by James Ellroy, the scribe behind excellent detective thriller LA Confidential, Rampart was inspired by the real life police scandals of this Los Angeles precinct by the same name.

While this adds credence and credibility to Rampart, it still feels like there’s something missing here; unlike so many of the bona fide police trials with their reams of falsified evidence of course.

Woody Harrelson continues along his merry acting way, much as he has ever since playing a his namesake as a bartender on Cheers.

Despite some great films Harrelson’s been a part of, and the eclectic nature of roles he takes, I’ve never quite been able to shake that dumb yet good natured vibe from Woody’s vacant features since he mastered this in his breakout role.

To a greater or lesser degree, all of Harrelson’s portrayals seem to be an extension of his own personality; and I still can’t work out if this makes Harrelson great or a one trick pony.

As David Brown, an officer who sees himself as above the law, Harrelson is angry, frustrated and misunderstood; but at no point did I ever really care about what happens to him one way or the other.

If that’s the intent, which it may very well be given the antihero he portrays here, then Harrelson’s done a marvellous job.

If not, well he’d probably be much better off tending bar somewhere.

The ensemble cast is ridiculously good; ridiculous because you have some seriously talented actors like Steve Buscemi, Robin Wright and Ben Foster all with very little screen time.

Their characters pass through Brown’s descent into his very own seven circles of hell, yet it’s hard to feel much sympathy for this particular devil as he’s simply reaping what he’s sown.

Rampart is a watchable hour and a half of one man’s self-inflicted reckoning, yet never adds up to more than the sum of its considerable parts.

But at least everyone knows Woody’s name.

Jonathan Campbell

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July 2012
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