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Los Angeles, 1999 - Officer Dave Brown (Harrelson) is a Vietnam vet and a Rampart Precinct cop, dedicated to doing “the people’s dirty work” and asserting his own code of justice, often blurring the lines between right and wrong to maintain his action-hero state of mind. When he gets caught on tape beating a suspect, he finds himself in a personal and emotional downward spiral as the consequences of his past sins and his refusal to change his ways in light of a department-wide corruption scandal seal his fate.
For more about Rampart and the Rampart Blu-ray release, see Rampart Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 17, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: Oren Moverman, James Ellroy
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright Penn, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Foster, Cynthia Nixon
» See full cast & crew
Rampart Blu-ray Review
The Rampart you watch?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 17, 2012
I hate all people equally.
Just when it seemed the Edgy Cop Drama had nowhere to go, no new stories to tell, Rampart arrives just in time to reinvigorate a rather stale but storied collection of pictures focusing on cops on the edge of the law and teetering on the verge of collapse in their personal lives away from the streets and without the security of the badge on their chests behind which to hide. Director Oren Moverman (The Messenger) assembles a brilliant cast and constructs a steady story of a man shaped by hate, violence, corrupted morals, and personal insecurity wrapped around a tough exterior and a sharp mind, both formed through years on the force and experiencing the sort of things in Vietnam, on the streets of Los Angeles, and in the back rooms of the precinct that would leave even the most stalwart individual on the verge of both an inward and outward meltdown. For Rampart's lead character, long gone is even a semblance of morality, tact, calmness, patience, honesty, or integrity. The world he once fought to protect has worn him down, leaving behind a shell of a man concerned only with making it on through to the next day, still allowed to do the only thing he knows, capable of satisfying his physical and emotional needs with the only skills that remain. It's a story of tragedy, of good intentions leading to a slow decay of everything a man holds dear until all that's left is the basic shape as it's been whittled down and smoothed over like the a stone wasted away down to its core by the steady currents of a harshly rushing stream.
The setting is Los Angeles. The year is 1999, and L.A.'s famous -- or is it infamous -- Rampart division has a new problem: officer David Brown (Woody Harrelson). He's a Vietnam vet and a one-of-a-kind, an officer with no moral scruples and his own way of conducting police business. He's twice divorced, his ex-wives sisters and both mothers of his children. He's known around the force and at home as "Date Rape," a reference to his "murder" of an alleged date rapist years prior. On the job and off, Brown's his own man. He hates everyone, regardless of skin color, gender, orientation, or history. He loves the company of women and the joys of illicit substance. He commits crimes, sets the scene, and hides behind the badge. But when he's caught on camera while severely beating a motorist who crashed into his car and attempted to flee the scene, he suddenly becomes the biggest problem in an already troubled division. He resists the department's efforts to see him leave the force voluntarily, and suspects a deeper conspiracy beyond merely cleaning up department affairs. With his job will go his life, and he'll do anything to retain the status quo, no matter how bad he may be for the force, the city, and himself.
Corrupt, tough, edgy, hateful, spiteful, self-centered cops are no strangers to cinema. Yet this is the story of a cop who is so hopelessly beyond redemption, so worn down by and torn away from reality that he gives the genre a new element in which to work. But does Rampart venture into overkill territory, where the movie is so bleak and hopeless that it kills any positives the rest of the film brings to the table? It certainly borders on playing too harshly and with almost no figurative light to shine through the overbearing darkness that is Dave Brown's mind, body, and soul. He's become such a devouring black hole of hate, brutal honesty, inward corruption, and outward apathy that he's got to be one of the most unsympathetic and difficult-to-watch characters in film history. On the flip side, it's hard not to admire him in a strange sort of way. There's something to be said for brutal honesty in one's words and holding firm to a personal code, but where Brown crosses the line is in meshing his beliefs with his actions. Whether he's right or wrong in how he sees the world, he goes about his business in a manner that simply doesn't work in modern society. He could have been anything, done whatever he so chose with his life -- chief of police, an attorney considering his knowledge of the law, or just a decorated and respected keeper of the peace -- but Brown instead throws it all away for his own way of doing things, operating far outside modern accepted norms. While operating out of the status quo has proven time and again an historical positive in advancing the story of man, Brown goes beyond standing firm and settles for collapsing into the gutters of society rather than cleaning them out. He's neither a vigilante nor a game-changer, just a lost soul long gone to a terrible world in which he can neither exist nor change.
Woody Harrelson gives immediate and evident shape to the character. His portrayal exemplifies the art of acting, evidenced by his complete immersion into a personal chaos defined by radical patterns of mind, thoughtless actions of body, and a betrayal of soul. His limit is only how far down his character may sink into nothingness, into corruption of every area of his life. He fights the system only because operating within the system is all he knows; take that away, and finish the man off for good. His Brown is sort of like an alcoholic whose fix comes not from the bottle but from the badge; he simply cannot operate without it, and he can only operate his own way behind it, not the way of the department, common sense, or moral decency. Harrelson's effort shines above even the collection of A-list stars who appear all too briefly, generally, in the movie. Ice Cube stands out as the closest thing Brown has to an "enemy" outside of himself, the rapper/actor -- always excellent in every role, no exception here -- playing a man assigned to reel Brown in, and Cube's a match for Harrelson in every scene they share. The remainder of the roster sort of comes and goes, with actors like Steve Buscemi really only appearing rather than adding much of anything to the end product, but Rampart certainly has assembled a total package of top-tier talent. On the other side of the camera, Oren Moverman and Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski involve the camera in the action beyond merely pointing and shooting, finding some unique perspectives that keep the movie fresh and flowing, though certainly the characters and the story are enough to at least maintain a steady pace in the slowest stretches. A few scenes towards the end become more jumbled than necessary, but generally Rampart impresses visually to the point that the style becomes a piece of the greater whole.
Rampart Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rampart sparkles on Blu-ray. Millennium Entertainment's 1080p high definition transfer, captured from the digital shoot source, impresses at every turn. Colors are consistently vibrant and accurate. Bright outdoor scenes reveal brilliant reds and blues, and darkened interiors awash in a reddish glow deliver true shading consistent with those ambient light sources. Better, black levels are superb, rich and accurate, ditto flesh tones. Fine detail is exemplary. The transfer reveals every fine line in faces, every speck of dirt on cars, the tiniest textures and seams in clothes, and the most inconsequential sign of wear and grime in run-down locales and upon older objects. The image is sharp and clean as they come. Moderately heavy noise does appear in darker scenes, and a slight bout of aliasing rears its ugly head once or twice, namely across a fence as seen in a nighttime shot in chapter six. Altogether, though, this is a brilliant, high quality, almost picture-perfect transfer from Millennium.
Rampart Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rampart's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack is just as impressive as its sharp video transfer. Millennium's audio presentation fills the soundstage both accurately and consistently. The listening area becomes the Rampart division, the streets of Los Angeles, night clubs, bars, and Brown's home. Ambience is amazingly reproduced, whether the most obvious, loudest effects or the quietest, seemingly most inconsequential sounds that altogether seamlessly recreate every environment. Radio chatter, heavy music pumping out of cars, sirens, screeching brakes, chatty pedestrians, and pretty much every other imaginable sound effect plays with unmatched clarity and with precision sonic placement from every corner of the soundstage. Music plays smoothly, with fine spacing and a tight low end evident throughout, particularly as heard accompanying some of those heavier beats that shape the wonderful street-level environmental effects. Dialogue is clear, accurate, and smooth as it plays consistently through the center channel, and it's never lost under or forced to compete with surrounding elements. This is a first-rate soundtrack from Millennium.
Rampart Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rampart contains a scant collection of extras, highlighted by a director's commentary track.
Rampart Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rampart won't be remembered as a top-tier Cop movie, of either the "good cop" or "bad cop" varieties -- in other words, this is no Training Day -- but Director Oren Moverman's picture paints a fascinating portrait of a cop long gone from normalcy, well beyond the point of saving, living only to survive, not to better himself or the world in which he operates. Rampart looks at a life on the fringes but protected, somewhat, by the uniform he wears, though as he falls further from grace and past even his own low, he must struggle to maintain his last futile grip on the life he leads, the only life he knows. It's a fascinating tale, one that's well-written, nicely directed, and expertly acted. Genre fans definitely need to check it out. Millennium's Blu-ray release of Rampart features top-end video and audio, but the supplements are a bit on the thin side. Fortunately for the extras, quality overcomes quantity. Rampart comes recommended.
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Rampart Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Rampart Blu-ray - March 21, 2012
Millennium Home Entertainment will bring Rampart to Blu-ray this summer. The newest collaboration from filmmaker Oren Moverman (I'm Not There) and actor Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers) since the Academy Award-nominated The Messenger, Rampart stars Harrelson ...
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