For a guy who got his start on a sitcom playing a dude with nary a brain in his skull, Woody Harrelson doesn't get nearly the credit he's due for what he's accomplished over the course of his acting career. Harrelson has carved out an uber-impressive resume including two Oscar nominations but the 50-year-old's latest role in Rampart, an ultra-corrupt cop out to serve justice as he sees fit, could very well be his crowning achievement - he kills it. Unfortunately for Woody, it's in a film saddled with a melodramatic script that would serve better as a TV pilot.
The film is set in 1999, smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles' infamous Rampart Division scandal. Cops accused of shootings, beatings, framings, stealings, dealings - in short, the inmates running a jacked-up asylum.
Harrelson plays Dave Brown, a maverick guilty of the majority of the aforementioned infractions and owner of the nickname "Date Rape", not for his participation in it but rather his termination of it.
After getting caught on tape beating the tar out of some cat that broadsided his cruiser, Harrelson's "not-answering-to-anyone" world takes a serious jolt, forced to defend his ferocious ways in front of Internal Affairs in the form of one Sigourney Weaver. The former law school student Harrelson sends the impending civil case to court - taking his bank account and mega-extended family (ex-wives Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon and two daughters) down with him.
Director Oren Moverman has collaborated with Harrelson before in the vastly underrated The Messenger but unlike that movie, Rampart is largely void of any emotion. Frankly, we don't give a rats what happens to either Harrelson or his harem.
While Harrelson is an absolute tour de force as the renegade Rampart officer, the movie itself gets bogged down with extraneous characters (Robin Wright, Ben Foster, Ice Cube, et al.) and numerous plot sidebars that take away from what should have been better focused: a more intimate look at what makes Harrelson's character tick.