Woody Harrelson stars as David Douglas Brown, a crooked cop forced to face up to his choices in the midst of the 1999 Rampart Scandal in which more than 70 Los Angeles police officers were implicated in the most widespread case of police misconduct in history.
The story is presented in the form of a character study of “Date Rape” Dave, a womanizing, bigoted bully who has daughters (Brie Larson, Sammy Boyarsky) from a pair of sisters (Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche) and is facing charges of police brutality and viciously beating a man who crashed into his police car on camera.
In need of help Dave recruits a retired cop (Ned Beatty) and old friend of his father’s who puts him onto a heist that only gets him in further trouble with the LAPD. His involvement also puts an investigator (Ice Cube) from the District Attorney’s office on his case.
Rampart was written by Oren Moverman and crime novelist James Ellroy (who knows, and has written, more than a little about corrupt L.A. cops). The story of an increasingly paranoid cop spiraling out of control isn’t as interesting as the backdrop of the Rampart Scandal which the film only briefly touches on over the course of the film.
Harrelson does a good job portraying a scumbag of a human being who can still care for his daughters but not quite now how to show it. His increased paranoia, as the noose around his neck, slowly tightens works well. Robin Wright works well in the small role of Dave’s latest conquest, but other than those two performances there’s little that separates Rampart from any number of films about corrupt cops finally facing the justice that has eluded them. Beatty, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Heche, and Nixon are mostly wasted in small supporting roles and the script teases a closer look at Dave’s relationship with his daughters without ever really exploring them.
Rampart certainly isn’t a movie that demands viewing, and it’s certainly not a fun two-hours spending time with “Date Rape Dave,” the family he’s messed up and the career he’s slowly destroyed simply by being himself, but even if its focus isn’t entirely where it should be there’s just enough here worth viewing for those curious enough to seek it out (but you still might want to keep your fast-forward button handy).
[Millennium Entertainment. Blu-ray $29.99 / DVD $28.99]