“This used to be a glorious soldiers’ department,” says Woody Harrelson as dirty LA cop and Vietnam vet Dave Brown early on in “Rampart” by director Oren Moverman.
He’s right. Beset by the Rampart scandal, the LAPD in 1999 is anything but glorious. And corrupt, bloodthirsty, womanizing, racist Dave is anything but sympathetic. Dave’s also oddly verbose at times, perhaps signaling that he isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.
The best part of “Rampart” is the strong acting by Harrelson and the rest of the cast – Ned Beatty, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, and a cameo from Steve Buscemi.
Despite the formidable acting, there’s scant character development, a turbid storyline and gimmicky camerawork. Sometimes the script, by Moverman and James Ellroy, just thuds. When Dave meets Linda (Wright) in a bar, his opening gambit is: “You’re wearing a courtroom suit and you have litigator eyes.” Really?
And when Beatty’s character, an ex-bad-cop, meets Dave in a library, he tells him: “I don’t play games. I don’t name names.”
As much as I wanted to like “Rampart,” I found the film unpleasant to watch. Granted, it is unpleasant subject matter, but dramatically this is a letdown. I had high hopes for “Rampart” because I admired Harrelson and Moverman’s excellent movie “The Messenger” from 2009. For really sizzling neo-noir stories of police corruption, give me “L.A. Confidential” (based on Ellroy’s novel) or “Serpico” anytime.