R, 1 hr. 47 min. Directed By: Oren Moverman. Release Date: Feb 10, 2012. DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012.
I grew up, well, not in LA, but LA adjacent. I haven’t lived there since I was 14, but I still think of that great sprawl of people home. I go back whenever I can, although it’s been a very, very long time since I was able to go back. In all those years in LA, and I lived in California for another eight before finally leaving, although hopefully not for good, I never once heard of the Ramparts until just a few years ago. I recognize it’s an area deep in metro LA, nowhere near any of the burbs where the chosen ones live, and not far enough west to be desirable for gentrification.
A few years ago there was a scandal involving the Rampart Division of the LAPD. I don’t know a whole lot of details, but I know it’s a repeated discussion between Milo Sturgis and Alex Delaware in the Alex Delaware mysteries, by Jonathan Kellerman. What I can’t tell by the discussion and the strangely anachronistic stories, is WHEN this scandal happened. Rampart, the movie, doesn’t help clear that up for me, either.
Rampart is an unusual movie, primarily because Woody Harrelson got high praise for his portrayal of the violent, racist police officer who used his badge to commit multiple legal murders, while the movie seems to have not been all that favored at the box office. Critics seem more or less okay with it, fans much less so. There’s a reason: this is film as art. It’s all about pain and suffering, and that never does well at the box office. It’s an ugly story of an ugly time, and I’m not sure that anyone bothers with niceties like fairness. The Rampart Division is painted with a wide brush, and even when characters that appear that cannot be painted like that, dialogue is in place to force them into line.
This is one of those movies that underlines why I have two scoring systems and come up with an aggregate between them. It’s not just Woody Harrelson who is outstanding in this movie. There are more than a few better than average performances, and even the weaker ones seem to work within the framework of the story. The story is tight and rings with truth, even if it’s just a little bit of truth. But, this isn’t a movie that’s going to make you smile at the end. There’s not really a happy (or even a satisfying) ending. I wasn’t glad, after having hit the stop button on my remote, that I’d watched this, and I didn’t feel like my life had been improved in the two hours I spent with Woody, his family, his coworkers, his victims, and the people trying to prosecute him.