Film Review: Rampart

A crime drama/character study, Rampart begins well but loses its way unfortunately. The film is flawed but still manages to absorb viewers.

In the Los Angeles of 1999, Dave Brown is a veteran cop in the LAPD. The division is embroiled in a scandal which sees their every move scrutinised. Not knowing for playing by the rules, when Dave is caught out he struggles to keep hold of his job and his family…

Rampart is a character-driven film. It focuses heavily on the protagonist; the plot is secondary to this. Although the film retains the attention, it is a shame more emphasis is not given to the narrative. The film takes place at such an interesting time in terms of LAPD history, that it deserved more time allocated to it. Rampart is set in 1999; the beginnings of the well-known scandal. The film would have been more satisfying overall if more of a link between this and the character of Dave Brown had been established.

As a protagonist, Brown appears three-dimensional. James Ellroy and Oren Moverman’s screenplay is successful in its creation of a realistic character. While Dave Brown is not a hero, he is not completely irredeemable either. It is this ambiguity that hooks the audience.

Rampart‘s cinematography is really interesting. There is a great use of colour and lighting, juxtaposing the brightness and beauty of California with the seediness of crime. The constant pans in one scene are less effective, however. Similarly, editing and cinematography in the club scene creates an unusual, but not persuasive, result. Sound works well, but the jarring noises in this scene seem unnecessary, with this short segment letting the rest of the film down.

Woody Harrelson delivers a dominating performance as Dave Brown. He brings both charm and a tension to the role. Sigourney Weaver is well cast in a supporting role. Brie Larson stands out as Brown’s teenage daughter Helen, as does Robin Wright as Linda.

Rampart is a well-executed movie. It is only disappointing because it should be more than it offers.