(director/writer: Oren Moverman; screenwriter: James Ellroy; cinematographer: Bobby Bukowski; editor: Jay Rabinowitz; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Woody Harrelson (Dave Brown), Anne Heche (Catherine), Cynthia Nixon (former wife of Dave Brown), Ben Foster (General Terry), Ice Cube (Kyle Timkins), Steve Buscemi (Bill Blago), Sigourney Weaver(Joan Confrey), Robin Wright (Linda Fentress), Brie Larson (Helen, Dave’s oldest daughter), Ned Beatty (retired cop informer), Sammy Boyarsky (Margaret, Dave’s yougest daughter); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ben Foster/Ken Kao/Lawrence Inglee; Millennium; 2011)
“ The pic gets over mainly through Harrelson’s endearing performance as the conflicted flawed cop”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Woody Harrelson reunites with Oren Moverman, the director of his Oscar-nominated role in the 2009 “The Messenger.” Moverman cowrites withnoted crime writer James Ellroy this gritty police procedural film, that’s brilliantly filmed in a flashy kaleidoscope style in HD but whose narrative lacks credibility. It tells the tale of tough-guy dinosaur cop Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), who can’t change with the times. Dave patrols the neighborhood by car in LA’s infamous Rampart division in 1999 during the time of a corruption scandal that would later destroy the department (in real life, the Rampart division was linked with police corruption and brutality in the Nineties). The pic gets over mainly through Harrelson’s endearing performance as the conflicted flawed cop, who despite being a dirty cop, a racist, a womanizer, a misanthrope and a perpetrator of police brutality is deemed by the filmmaker more appealing than the other corrupt cops featured because he’s more transparent, more intelligent and more human.
The chain-smoking, heavy boozing macho cop earned the moniker of “Date Rape” Dave after he allegedly killed a suspected serial rapist while on the vice squad some ten years ago. The no-nonsense assistant district attorney (Sigourney Weaver) believes Dave is a dirty cop who got away with abusing his power for years, but has no proof to bring him to justice. While Dave inexplicably remains on active duty despite being investigated for police brutality in a beating caught on camera, he faces other pressing personal issues that leave him psychologically bloodied: such as the lone wolf’s ex-wives (Anne Heche & Cynthia Nixon), with whom he had a daughter each with, giving him the boot from their shared suburban house. Soon Dave goes into a meltdown from all the pressure of being targeted for a police probe by hostile law enforcement officials, that an Internal Affairs cop (Ice Cube) gets the goods on him for killing someone he chased during a botched high-stakes card-game robbery, that it sinks in at last that his family despises him despite his clumsy attempts at being protective to his daughters and, finally, the dagger in the heart of being betrayed by his retired avuncular old-line longtime cop friend (Ned Beatty).
There’s a good film noir story somewhere buried in this mess, but it’s smothered by its confusing portrayal of an evil cop who still believes his unlawful actions were justified because he only took out the bad guys. I was hoping there would be something more in the narrative to get at what great psychological truths the filmmaker was shooting for to explain the rogue cop other than offering a bunch of tired excuses for his bad conduct.
REVIEWED ON 11/21/2011 GRADE: B