Wednesday, 16 January 2013

DVD review: Rampart

After watching three hours of watching Brian De Palma's unedited cut of James Ellroy's novel The Black Dahlia, the author praised the directors adaptation and wrote an essay titled "Hilikers", praising the director for his work. Disappointingly its difficult to offer the same praise for Ellroy's scripted Rampart, which results as a complex beast that you cannot help but wish it was more then it turned out to be.

Director Oren Moverman has the task of bringing Ellroy's script to life. Having directed Woody Harrelson before in the 2009 film The Messenger, which won Harleson a Oscar nod. So for the partnership's second outing Harleson takes centre stage as he plays Dave "Date Rape" Brown, named after a suspected date rapist he allegedly murdered. A sexist, racist corrupted Los Angeles police officer whose out dated views and attitude towards dispensing his own form of justice land him in trouble after he is caught beating a civilian after a car crash. Soon enough Brown finds himself the centre of a court case in which his career hangs in the balance.

Yet the film fails at being coherent, Moverman's choices of shots are peculiar, most visible in Brown's meeting with boss Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi, where the camera turns 360 numerous times till you are left disorientated. Some scenes resemble documentary like footage, with long unedited scenes and hand held footage. But then some scenes finish before you can understand whats going on. It's not only the camera work that fails but also the script. What starts off with Brown's assault soon deteriorates into sub plots of family anguish and paranoia, leaving the original premise pretty flat on the ground. Much like Ellroy's LA Confidential paid homage to Roman Polanski's Chinatown and Rampart owes much to William Friendkn's The French Connection. But unlike Friendkn's film, as the film progresses its difficult to relate or care for Harrelson's Brown, lacking any engagement or sympathy. resulting in a disconnection from a film that could have offered so much more.

The film may boast the talents of Weaver and Buscemi but they are never given much more then five minutes on screen, especially Buscemi who disappears quicker then he appears in the first place. As well characters come into the story, appearing throughout yet their roles seem pointless at times and the only point to them is to make up time or add another dimension to the story. What really anchors the film is Woody Harleson's portrayal of Brown and his decent into a breakdown. Harrelson fleshes out the character, who if played by a less talented actor could have crashed and burned, yet Harelson molds together a powerful performance but it really is the script that limits Harrelson's ability and by the end of the film it's difficult to put together everything Ellory and Moverman have pieced together.

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