By William Wolf


Woody Harrelson once again shows how fine an actor he is with his wrenching portrait of a psychopathic Los Angeles cop in “Rampart,” slickly directed by Oren Moverman, who co-wrote the unsettling, scathing screenplay with James Ellroy. As well made as the film is, there’s an inherent problem. Dave Brown (Harrelson) is so thoroughly obnoxious that, while admiring the acting, one may not feel like spending much time with the character.

Brown is corrupt, violent and navigates without any sign of a moral compass. His unsavory past includes the probable killing of a rapist, and with knowledge about his violent streak widespread, he is a prime target when a fresh issue of violence arises.

Brown’s personal life is a thorough mess. He has frustratingly strained relations with am angry daughter. The main women in his life, sisters played by Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon, add further complications as he keeps up contact with both. Brown is more at home dispensing punishment to those who run afoul of him than in personal relationships.

There are moments when he gives way to what passes as self-pity, but he surely doesn’t like himself. And he doesn’t give us the slightest reason to care about him or what happens to him, as he is a thoroughly despicable and disgusting character, more interesting as a case study. Moverman and Harrelson have done a commendable job in delineating this monster.

But the question lingers: Do we want to waste time on him?

The cast also includes Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster and Ice Cube.


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