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"Rampart": Woody Harrelson Is a Bad Cop 

Wednesday, Feb 8 2012

Directed by Oren Moverman from a script by Moverman and L.A. noir master James Ellroy, Rampart tracks the downward spiral of LAPD cop Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson). The action's set in 1999, right around the time 70 Rampart Division cops were busted for misconduct. Soon Brown is at the center of his own scandal, when a surreptitiously shot video of him beating a suspect makes the nightly news. The dominoes fall from there: An effort to obtain cash for his legal costs leads to a second charge of suspicious force, which leads to Brown's ejection from the home he shares with his two daughters and two ex-wives — who happen to be sisters. Although he's working in a style of heightened naturalism that's the antithesis of glossy Ellroy adaptations L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, Moverman mimics the free-associative style of Ellroy's writing with restless, cubistic editing. Every scene is seen from multiple angles, with Moverman toggling back and forth between medium shots and images captured from afar, as if via hidden camera. This ping-pong cutting doesn't suggest that Brown is being watched so much as it indicates that he thinks he's being watched. We only view the world as he perceives it — which allows us to understand how he can justify even his worst behavior. Together, Ellroy and Moverman have created a fascinating, open-ended pulp fiction out of a character study so subjective it's nearly psychedelic.

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Karina Longworth


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