Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Oren Moverman's new film RAMPART (his sophomore directing effort, following his well-received The Messenger from 2009) is set in Los Angeles and tracks the ongoing break-down of a well-known, deeply disliked, greatly feared and very dirty cop. L.A. police have been notoriously racist and scandal-prone down the decades. I spent my first 20 years in Los Angeles and then came back for another ten as an adult in the 1970s, so I can recall many of these "events" (sometimes via my older relatives talking about them), not to mention the movies that have covered them -- from Eastwood's Changeling (set during the 1920s) to Mr. Moverman's current exam-ple, which has been set nearly 20 years ago, in the early 1990s.
Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche) to his daughters to one of his superiors (played by Sigorney Weaver) to his casual (or not so) flings like the lawyer (played by Robin Wright, above) -- so that most of the men we see are generally his victims (well, literally everyone, each in his/her way, is his victim).
Ice Cube (above, right), Ned Beatty, Steve Buscemi and Ben Foster. From a technical standpoint, this film seems light years beyond The Messenger. The camerawork is often thrilling, the performances have not just depth but immediacy, and the sound seems particularly noteworthy (you'll notice the sound of flamenco dancing behind one scene, of vacuuming behind another). The single weak link may be the fact that Dave Brown's behavior is so bad -- and has been for so long -- that you do wonder why the L.A.P.D has kept him on the payroll this entire time. As I recall, when cops get to be this much of an embarrassment to the force, they can no longer be allowed to run roughshod.
Rampart, 112 minutes, from Millennium Entertainment, opens on Wednesday, November 23, in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Sunset 5.