What movie was that...?

16 July 2012

Rampart

directed by Oren Moverman

Oren Moverman’s film about a racist, bigoted, hateful, chauvinistic Molotov cocktail of an LA police officer is a stunner in every sense of the word, and the brilliant filmmaker has given the world another glimpse of the truly astounding heights Woody Harrelson can achieve if given the proper material. Harrelson plays David “Date Rape” Brown with an intensity you can practically measure empirically, a force of corruption long shadowed by a dubious career tainting slaying of a suspected rapist (hence the nickname). As he sucks down cigarette after cigarette, drink after drink, Brown’s self demolition seems eternally pulled between the magnetic poles of destruction and desperation, though to say that Moverman’s film is nothing more than bleak piled atop bleak would be a gross oversimplification. There is fury there, and always the prism of violence (physical, emotional, psychological, you name it) looms, but there is something else that compels you to watch and to be moved by Brown’s backslide. No doubt it’s the tremendous, tremendous talent that has been gestating inside Mr Harrelson all these long years (you have come a long way since Money Train, Mr H. Don’t ever go back.), wakened from its dormant state and loosed upon the earth. Sure, we saw glimmers of genius in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, and even in Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, but ever since he wowed me in No Country for Old Men, Harrelson has been turning out magical performances like gangbusters, and his brutally honest turn in Rampart is the kind that should have most actors out there hanging their heads in shame over their inadequacy. And Oren Moverman is pulling away from his contemporaries with each subsequent endeavor, creating worlds that affect us in both painful and profound ways. One of my favorites scenes is the first conversation between Brown and his retired cop buddy (an amazing Ned Beatty), specifically the shot choices Moverman makes when filming that exchange. Supremely interesting...

PS I would be remiss if I didn’t sing the praises of Robyn Wright, who magnificently  played a kind of dark counterpoint to Harrelson’s Brown, and the stellar talent that is Ben Foster, who achieves a Guy Pearceian feat of making very much out of very little as the decrepit General.

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