Anyone who has read a James Ellroy novel can attest to the author’s unparalleled ability to dramatize the dark corruption of the LAPD. Ellroy’s collaboration on the screenplay of Rampart brings his hard-boiled world to the screen, and starkly so through the gritty style of director/co-writer Oren Moverman (The Messenger). Rampart is an unflinching and unflattering portrait of the Rampart division of the LAPD. While the graphic realism of the film pushes it near the point of repulsion, Rampart is also a fascinating interpretation of seedy cops thanks to Woody Harrelson’s bravura performance as Dave Brown, the prototypical LAPD cop who abides by the philosophy of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
Brown is perhaps the worst kind of cop. This is not because he’s a hotheaded racist pig, but because he packs an earnest desire to protect the streets, yet his vigilant ethic frequently turns into vigilantism. Brown prefers to work outside the law in order to uphold it. Like a small boy playing with his toys, Brown flaunts the law ignorant to the consequences. The repercussions of his ire are evident in his fractured family. Brown supports two sisters – one is his current wife (Anne Heche), one is his ex-wife (Cynthia Nixon) – as well as one daughter from each of the two mothers. All four women in Brown’s life are plainly suffering from neglect. Much like the relationship between Brandon and Sissy in Shame, Dave’s recklessness explodes with complete disregard to his family.