At the heart of Oren Moverman’s Rampart is a riveting parable about what happens to a man who refuses to change, even when change is the only thing that can save him. That man is Dave Brown, played by Woody Harrelson as a cop whose personal life is propelled into a dizzying downward spiral when he comes under suspicion for roughing up a suspect. More than just a police officer who plays things fast and loose, Brown exposes the inner workings of a certain type of personality everyone recognizes around them, a personality very much part of American culture, yet not often examined. He is the kind of man inexorably drawn to authority and power, yet seems destined to abuse it; a man who has dreams of being a great masculine hero, yet is beholden to women; who has undeniable charm, yet whose stubborn refusal to take responsibility for his actions becomes a destructive force against family, community and ultimately himself.
In the late 1990s, Brown is a Vietnam vet and precinct cop working in Los Angeles’ notorious Rampart division. He sees himself as dedicated to “doing the people’s dirty work” . . . even if that means purposely crossing the line between right and wrong to maintain his action-hero state of mind . . . and even if it means obstinately following his own amoral code of “street justice.”
But when Dave gets caught on tape crossing the line, suddenly all the things he has ever done and the man he has become come back to haunt him, as the reality that he cannot change, or won’t change, unravels his fate. Director Oren Moverman (The Messenger), who co-wrote thescreenplay with celebrated crime novelist James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), probes inside Brown’s raw fear, anguish and paranoia as the noose tightens and the ramifications spread through his relationships with two ex-wives who happen to be sisters, with his disconnected young daughters, with an aging mentor dispensing bad advice, and a parade of police investigators and random women. Stripped of all his former pretense -- of the machismo, arrogance, prejudice, sexuality, aggression and misanthropy that he has let define him – Dave Brown is left with nothing but the most unsettling question of all: is there anything left to redeem him as a man?
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