Thursday, May 3, 2012
Written by Kirk Baird
Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his role as a crooked cop in Training Day. Woody Harrelson didn’t even receive a nomination for his equally memorable turn as a bad cop gone even worse in last year’s Rampart.
The little-seen drama with a big-name cast — Sigourney Weaver, Cynthia Nixon, Ice Cube, Anne Heche, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, and Ned Beatty — had film-transfer issues with the screening DVDs sent to voters, which the actor in turn blamed for the lack of votes.
Those with bad screeners and those who missed the film entirely have another opportunity to see what they missed as Rampart debuts on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
The dark drama is set in Los Angeles in 1999, with Harrelson as veteran police officer Dave Brown, a rogue cop who bends the rules as necessary for his survival and that of his family. Brown has two exes, both of whom are sisters, and two daughters. It’s a dysfunctional group, with Brown keeping tight reins. He sees his controlling nature as loving; his family views it as tyranny.
It’s when Brown is caught on camera chasing down an African-American suspect and beating the man nearly to death that his world begins to crumble, as outside forces seek to ruin him, making the renegade cop desperate and even more dangerous.
Rampart was co-written and directed Oren Moverman, who also co-wrote and directed 2009’s The Messenger, for which Harrelson was nominated. The story of a renegade authority figure is hardly fresh, but Harrelson breathes life into the bad cop cliché. His commanding performance — his darkest role since playing a sociopath on a murderous spree in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers — punctuates the film.
Brown is not as drug-fueled and over-the-top zany as Nicholas Cage’s rogue cop in 2009’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans. And, no, Harrelson didn’t win an Oscar. But it is a memorable and unexpected role from an actor once best known for playing a dimwitted but lovable bartender on a TV sitcom.