Rampart: In Conversation
movieScope editor Nikki Baughan and critic James Mottram discuss Rampart, which stars Woody Harrelson as a renegade cop facing investigation in late nineties LA.
RELEASED: February 24 2012
JAMES MOTTRAM I like that combination of Harrelson and Oren Moverman, who did The Messenger together. I thought it was a similarly intense performance from Harrelson; this director does seem to get the best out of him. It was also a bit like The Messenger in the sense that it probably doesn’t quite fulfil its potential. It had an amazing first half, and the second half doesn’t quite flesh out. Overall it didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed elements of it, particularly James Ellroy’s script and Harrelson, of course.
NIKKI BAUGHAN Harrelson’s performance was outstanding particularly given that he was in every single scene of the film. In the beginning, when he forces that female cadet to eat her fries, I thought this was going to be the kind of film where he rides roughshod over everyone and gets away with everything. But obviously it’s not. He’s completely losing his grip on his job and his home…
JAMES He has quite a difficult relationship with women, not least living with two former lovers who happen to be sisters! He strikes me as a predator, but I’m not sure how much he understands the women he’s with, which makes it fascinating to watch.
NIKKI I didn’t see it as him preying on vulnerable women, they all seemed to be attracted to him. Penn’s character was very interesting. I think she’s clearly reeling from something, and she finds some kind of solace in him. But that’s never really explored; they just have this intense physical relationship. It wasn’t her story; it’s Harrelson’s.
JAMES This film has also got a good style to it; it’s not too flashy, it’s quite low key.
NIKKI It was mainly close-up; there were no real wide shots of LA apart from in the final scenes, when he goes up into the hills and you get one shot of the city skyline. I think that effectively highlighted that he’s always been a part of the fabric of the city, but now he’s finding himself increasingly removed from it.
JAMES It does work well as a portrait of a man in free-fall, as much as it works as a portrait of LA in free-fall in the nineties.
NIKKI I also really liked the ending, the fact that it just faded out. He’s heading into an uncertain future where perhaps we know his fate, thanks to history, and he doesn’t. I thought that ambiguity worked very well considering the nature of his story.
NIKKI 5 stars
JAMES 4 stars