The role of a dirty cop has served many an actor well over the years – think Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant, or even Richard Gere in Internal Affairs.

Well, now we can add Woody Harrelson to the list, thanks to his stellar turn as the alcohol-swilling, chain-smoking, boorish Dave Brown in this otherwise disappointing thriller.

Brown is a member of the LAPD’s Rampart Division in 1999, a department under siege from allegations of corruption and wrongdoing.

Brown himself does nothing to disprove these accusations, having supposedly gunned down a rape suspect in a murky incident a few years back.

Looking to restore his reputation after cameras catch him dishing out a Rodney King-esque beating to a civilian, Brown stages a shooting after a robbery at a card game, only for the situation to get even worse as the various authorities decide the whole thing is far too dodgy to simply let slide.

As well as being closely monitored by the police bigwigs, the cop is also seeing his home life slowly erode – a messy set-up that sees his two former wives (sisters no less) live next to each other with their kids.

All this sounds pretty riveting I know and the truth is, if judged solely on Harrelson’s performance, the film is a major success.

The actor is quite simply stunning as Brown, a mix of menace, paranoia and angst, and, as his daughter points out at one point – ‘sexist, racist, a bigot and homophobic’.

Brown is quite simply a truly obnoxious character, but Harrelson makes him so much more than a cardboard cutout villain.

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Allied to Harrelson’s turn are decent roles for Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Ben Foster, Ned Beatty and Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche as the sisters.

This impressive cast though is wasted thanks to sluggish direction from Oren Moverman, who seems more interested in proving he can operate a camera than pushing the story forward.

There are far too many sequences that are flashy for flash’s sake, including one nightclub scene that looks like outtakes from The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ video.

The film seems to drift for swathes of its running time, and then comes to an abrupt end with little resolved.

Rampart is certainly worth watching for Harrelson’s star turn, but you end up wishing the rest of the project matched his efforts.

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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.