Star rating – 7/10
Seeing all the razzmatazz and glitz of the Oscars this week, it’s very difficult to see how on earth Woody Harrelson was overlooked for a nomination for Best Actor for his role in Rampart, except maybe that the subject matter of the film is a shade or two too dark for Hollywood favour. Although the film itself is not flawless, his performance as bad LAPD cop Dave Brown is nothing short of phenomenal.
Brown is sexist, racist, brutal , and violent – he is basically out to punish bad guys, and he doesn’t care if he breaks the law to do so. His call sign amongst his colleagues is ‘Date Rape’ – gained by the apparent murder of an alleged date rapist some time ago. But the problem for Brown is that the notorious LAPD is in the middle of trying to clean up its act – or at least persuade the public that it is doing so. Save for the powerful and beguiling way Harrelson makes the audience sort of root for the unlikely cop, he would not be a character you would waste much time worrying about. From the start he bullies a female officer under his command into eating her French fries when she clearly does not want to – a chilling insight onto his deeper psyche.
His domestic set-up is odd – he has married and had children with two sisters, who live next door to each other, and to both he is still weirdly attached. Harrelson said that the thing that persuaded him that he could play this police officer was the fact that he had a deep love of his family. And the fact that the part of a policeman is so alien to Harrelson’s nature makes it all the more remarkable a performance. He gets under the skin of Brown like no-one else could. His performance is simply mesmerising.
The film itself is slightly less impressive, as it loses its way towards its climax. And the climax is a bit of a letdown – truth be told. But Harrelson more than makes up for any weaknesses here with his formidable acting. And there’s a great cameo performance by Sigourney Weaver as his superior who is clearly exasperated by his antics and continued lawbreaking. The cinematography is wonderful, with some beautiful shots of the LA cityscape at night. This film is worth seeing just for the mesmerising performance of Woody Harrelson, even if it did not tick all the Academy’s boxes.