In this case, the film focuses on Officer Dave Brown (Harrelson), who serves as a composite of the dozens of problems cops implicated in the scandal. Brown is a racist badass who wantonly prowls the city. The story picks up after Brown is caught on videotape as he beats a suspect.
Rampart is also an in-depth character study of a multi-dimensional dude teetering on the edge. He's a sociopath with a badge who undermines and embodies the justice system and in doing so exposes the hypocrisy and corruption within his ranks. Thanks to multi-layered events, we're never sure if someone's out to get him or if he's just digging his own grave.
This flick maintains an arty socio-political commentary throughout. While traveling on the same terrain as Colors and Training Day, Rampart is steeped in a hazy world of its own and plays out more like a Charles Bukowski story. We follow the careening downward spiral of a man who has butted against the system one time too many times. He's a misogynist, alcoholic, sex addict who, despite all his deficiencies, manages to seduce women. Brown's inner rage and dysfunction peaks at home with his two ex-wives (Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon) and their daughters.
Harrelson gives the performance of a lifetime. This is his Crazy Heart (or Taxi Driver) moment and if he doesn't get an Oscar nod, then there's truly is no justice in the world.
Warped from the word go, Harrelson's martini guzzling bullet-headed cop defies all stereotypes and keeps you guessing. His rowdy vigor and what-the-hell attitude makes his character likable and loathsome at the same time. Displaying an ability to be cocky and paranoid simultaneously, Harrelson gives Brown a soul with a weird bravado that makes us at times root for his despicable ways.
Oren Moverman is truly a director with a vision. Artistically shot and conceived, every scene has textural beauty despite the subject matter. Still, we are left with an ambiguous ending. I'm sure we'd all like to see this conceited finagler and all his machismo racist violence laid to rest, but, hey, it's not too difficult to put the remaining off-screen pieces together.
Rampart is a major achievement. If you are fortunate to see this movie, you will be talking about it for a long, long time.