In Oren Moverman's Rampart, Woody Harrelson gives the performance of his career as Dave Brown, a late '90s L.A. cop whose modus operandi on the street is brutality and corruption, without the slightest twinge of conscience or remorse. This pig is so morally bankrupt that the Bad Lieutenant would probably rat him out to internal affairs.
If you thought Harrelson was menacing in Natural Born Killers, wait 'til you see him in this. The menace here is more internalised, but it never lets up for a second of his screen time, boiling away just below the surface, ratcheting up the tension to uncomfortable levels. It's a cliche, but Harrelson's officer Brown really is a walking time bomb. A spring loaded trap of barely controlled rage, imminent violence and universal hatred. In his own words:
"I am not a racist. Fact is, I hate all people equally."
Homophobe, misogynist, racist... this cop proudly wears his poisonous beliefs like a badge of honour. The trouble is, everyone around him is finally reaching the extent of their tolerance for his behaviour... and officer Dave Brown isn't heeding the warnings.
Rampart is an outstanding example of classic L.A. noire, solidly anchored by a sharp, caustic screenplay by James Ellroy - almost certainly his best to date (remember, he wrote the source novel for L.A. Confidential, not the screenplay). Harrelson deserves awards for this, but he isn't the only one to shine: Sigourney Weaver is also at the top of her game here in a relatively small part, and it's obvious that she's going to remain a force to reckon with as she moves into her senior years. The other star of this movie is the cinematography by Bobby Bukowski, which is just impossibly beautiful. Through his lens, the City of Angels has never looked better.
Rampart is powerful stuff. Highly recommended.