Saturday, February 18, 2012


A searing and powerful performance by Woody Harrelson anchors this new drama from director Oren Moverman (who also co-wrote the screenplay with James Ellroy). Mr. Harrelson and Mr. Moverman have teamed up before in the excellent film, "The Messenger". This new film could not be any different but still delivers an emotional knockout.

Mr. Harrelson is Dave Brown, a policeman and Vietnam vet, patrolling the streets of 1999 Los Angeles. Officer Brown live by his own moral code and blurs the line between right and wrong. As we meet him, circumstances from his past are colliding with events of the present and his life is crashing down around him.

Dave lives with two sisters and the two daughters he fathered between them. Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche play the sisters. Brie Larson plays the older teenage daughter, Helen. This unusual arrangement is taking it's toll and Dave is forced to move out. His emotional scenes with Helen depict their strained relationship as they try to find a common bond between them.

While his family life is unraveling, Dave's professional life is also in crisis. Under fire for beating a suspect (among other things), he 's under investigation by Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, and Ice Cube ( a terrific IA officer). At the same time, he gets involved with a number of women, most prominently, Robin Wright. Drinking, taking drugs and abusing everyone around him, Dave sinks lower and lower into despair, his internal anger at the world threatening to explode at any moment.

The film has a terrific score and wonderfully inventive camerawork. The camera is a living character, giving us point of view angles from everywhere. There are also some gems of small scenes with co-stars Ned Beatty and Ben Foster. Mr. Harrelson is not quite Harvey Keitel in "Bad Lieutenant" but he does share some similar qualities. While that film went way over the top, "Rampart" plays it all too real and Mr. Harrelson is just mesmerizing.

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