Corrupt cops should know better than to beat a suspect to a pulp in the YouTube age. From the director of the excellent drama The Messenger, Woody Harrelson stars as an LA police officer who gets caught red handed - you guessed it - beating a suspect to a pulp in Rampart, a movie with a lot going for it. Not so much to show for it.
The Messenger, which was Oren Moverman's debut as a director, was one of the best movies of 2009. Starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, it was a moving drama that was superbly directed, well crafted and emotionally gripping.
As a follow-up, Rampart had big shoes to fill.
The movie, which also features Foster in a supporting role, just doesn't live up to the expectations set by The Messenger. Moverman's style hasn't changed dramatically, but his style doesn't fit the tone of Rampart as well. The Messenger was an emotional character drama, and while Rampart is to some degree, it's also a movie about a corrupt cop playing both sides to stay alive.
Immediately, this calls for a comparison to FX's "The Shield," one of the best cop shows of all time. It may not be a fair comparison, but The Messenger is like a dull version of "The Shield". Everything from its story to appearance and characters mirror "The Shield" in some way or form. The difference: "The Shield" had edge. Guts. Intensity.
Rampart, not so much.
Harrelson turns in a fine performance as Officer Dave Brown, who in addition to his legal troubles struggles with family issues and a rocky new relationship with a lawyer (Robin Wright). Harrelson is well suited for the role, his portrayal more than adequate. He's no Michael Chiklis, though.
Again, it may be unfair to compare a theatrical drama to "The Shield", but things aren't always fair. Rampart bears enough similarities to the show to evoke fond memories, which don't do the film any favors. Rampart is a decent drama, but it's ultimately unremarkable and forgettable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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