Set in 1999 Los Angeles, against the backdrop of the LAPD's Rampart investigation that revealed systemic abuse of police power, Oren Moverman's drama depicts the unraveling of an L.A. cop after his brutal assault on a civilian is caught on tape.
Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is an unrepentant corrupt cop whose outsized exterior masks a lot of contradictions. Dave's smart and a silver-tongued defender of his abhorrent behavior, but he's blind to changes and can't adapt. He fancies himself a lone macho cowboy, but he's dependent on drugs and alcohol; aches for the various women in his life that he nonetheless abuses; and relies heavily on his mentor, a retired corrupt cop (Ned Beatty).
Rampart is less plot-driven than it is a series of vignettes that reveal the depth and breadth of Dave's amorality and his increasing disconnect from the institutions — family, job, justice — that he erroneously believes guide his actions. And this is Harrelson's show — the actor is in every scene and though he's rarely sympathetic, his performance is riveting. Also on hand, an impressive slate of well-known indie-ish actors, from old hands like Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi to newblood Ben Foster, who previously teamed up with Harrelson and Moverman for The Messenger.