HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Twitter:
@digby56
@DavidOAtkins

emails:
Digby:
digbysez at gmail
David:
isnospoon at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic
Common Dreams
AmericanPoliticsJournal
Smirking Chimp
CJR Daily
consortium news

Blog-o-rama

Eschaton
BagNewsNotes
Daily Kos
Political Animal
Driftglass
Firedoglake
Taylor Marsh
Spocko's Brain
Talk Left
Suburban Guerrilla
Scoobie Davis
Echidne
Electrolite
Americablog
Tom Tomorrow
Left Coaster
Angry Bear
oilprice.com
Seeing the Forest
Cathie From Canada
Frontier River Guides
Brad DeLong
The Sideshow
Liberal Oasis
BartCop
Juan Cole
Rising Hegemon
alicublog
Unqualified Offerings
Alas, A Blog
RogerAiles
Lean Left
Oliver Willis
skippy the bush kangaroo
uggabugga
Crooked Timber
discourse.net
Amygdala
the talking dog
David E's Fablog
The Agonist


Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 03, 2012

 
Saturday Night At the Movies


Motel money murder madness


By Dennis Hartley















Dirty Harrelson: Rampart


In a 1995 interview, hard-boiled scribe James Ellroy said of the protagonists in his (then) current novel, American Tabloid: “…I want to see these bad, bad, bad, bad men come to grips with their humanity.” Anyone who has read any number of his books will glean this as an ongoing theme in his work. Later in the interview, Ellroy confides that he “…would like to provide ambiguous responses in my readers.” If those were his primary intentions in the screenplay that drives Oren Moverman’s gripping and unsettling new film Rampart (co-written with the director), I would say that he has succeeded mightily on both counts.


And there is, indeed, a very bad, bad, bad, bad man at the heart of this story, and he is veteran LAPD Sgt. Dave “Date Rape” Brown (Woody Harrelson), who earned his charming nickname in the wake of an incident that resulted in the fatal shooting of a suspected serial date rapist. This is another Ellroy trademark; I was reminded of a scene from L.A. Confidential, wherein Lt. Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) is cheerfully christened “Shotgun Ed” by the chief after gunning down several suspects. As there is a 50-year gap that separates Lt. Exley’s era (the 1950s) from Sgt. Brown’s (his story is set in 1999), perhaps this is Ellroy’s way of telegraphing that the more things change, the more they stay the same…at least regarding those who “serve and protect” the City of Lost Angels.


Based on job description, Dave Brown may be a public servant who “protects”, but the more we get to know him, the more obvious it is that he “serves” no one but himself. Despite a career-long propensity for generally disregarding most of the ethical standards one would expect an officer of the law to uphold, Brown has somehow managed to hang on to his badge. While he embodies many defining characteristics of that noir staple known as the “rogue cop”, he is not quite so in the same sense as, say, Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan (who may be a fascist…but at least he’s a fascist with principles). Nor is he a “conflicted cop”, wrestling with his conscience, because he doesn’t have one. He does have a Code, of sorts; he may be racist, sexist and homophobic (again, a typical Ellroy protagonist) but as he helpfully qualifies at one point, “I hate everyone…equally.”


However, Brown’s karma is catching up with him, particularly after he flies off the handle when his police cruiser is struck by another motorist (who may or may not be a “fleeing suspect”). His subsequent beatdown of said motorist is caught on camera, resulting in a Rodney King-sized public relations nightmare for the department that puts Brown at odds with a no-nonsense D.A. (Sigourney Weaver) and an Internal Affairs investigator (Ice Cube). We see an interesting side to Brown in the course of these grilling sessions; he is quite the silver-tongued devil, articulating his viewpoint with a cool intelligence and developed vocabulary that belies his otherwise thuggish demeanor. Regardless, the reality sets in that he needs to scare up serious coin for a defense lawyer, so he reaches out to a crooked ex-LAPD officer (Ned Beatty) who tips him to an “easy” cash grab, which of course goes horribly wrong, putting Brown into an even deeper hole.


In the meantime, Brown is becoming more and more alienated from his fellow cops, and (more significantly) his family. His family situation is odd, to say the least. He lives with his two ex-wives (Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon), who are sisters. He has two daughters (Brie Larson and Sammy Boyarsky), one by each. After witnessing Brown’s on-the-job behavior, I was bracing myself for what I anticipated to be inevitable and horrifying scenes of domestic abuse, but interestingly, they never “go there”. In fact, with the exception of his youngest daughter, who is likely too naïve to see through his bullshit, he is treated by the exes and eldest daughter like a housecat who keeps getting underfoot at the most inconvenient times. And whenever he’s told to fuck off (which is often), he dutifully slinks away to sulk in the corner. It appears that Brown needs his family much more than they need him; because it is only after they finally boot him out for good that he really begins circling the drain in earnest, embarking on a thoroughly debauched sex, drug and alcohol-fueled midnight alley roam (a la Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas).


Curiously, despite the film’s title (and 1999 time frame), the story has little to do with the infamous Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s, in which over 70 officers assigned to the division’s anti-gang unit were implicated in a shocking laundry list of misdeeds ranging from frame-ups and perjury to bank robbery and murder. There are a few perfunctory references, but I don’t believe that the intention here was to do a docudrama. Also, the cops involved in the Rampart scandal seemed to operate from a mindless mob mentality; essentially co-opting the gang culture they were supposed to be countering. Brown is a lone wolf, perhaps an anachronism; a sort of “last holdout” to the old school of LAPD corruption that permeates Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet”, a series of four novels that spans the late 40s through the late 50s (including the aforementioned L.A. Confidential).


This is the second collaboration between director, leading man and the film’s co-producer, actor Ben Foster (virtually unrecognizable here in a minor supporting role as a homeless, wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet). Moverman, Harrelson and Foster teamed up in 2009 for the outstanding drama, The Messenger . In my review of that film, I noted:


…there is a lot about this film that reminds me of those episodic, naturalistic character studies that directors like Hal Ashby and Bob Rafaelson used to turn out back in the 70s; giving their actors plenty of room to breathe and inhabit their characters in a very real and believable manner.

The same can be said for Moverman’s latest project as well. Some viewers may find this approach a little too episodic, especially if one is expecting standard crime thriller tropes. So if you’re seeking car chases, shootouts and a neatly wrapped ending tied with a bow-look elsewhere. Like those classic 70s character studies, the film just sort of…starts (no opening credits, no musical cues), shit happens, and then it sort of…stops (no big finale). It’s what’s inside this sandwich that matters, namely the fearless and outstanding performance from a gaunt and haunted Harrelson. Larson (as his eldest daughter) is a standout, as is the always excellent Robin Wright (as a burned out, self-loathing defense lawyer), who nearly steals all her scenes with Harrelson. So, does Harrelson’s bad, bad character ever manage to “come to grips” with his humanity? It may be too little, too late, but he does. It is expressed in an extraordinary, wordless exchange between him and his daughter. Both actors play it beautifully; and it’s so ephemeral that you might miss it if you blink. So don’t blink. Because by the time it registers, Brown has crawled back into the dark urban shadows that spawned him, just another lost angel in the city of night.


Bad cop, worst cop: Dark Blue, Cop, The Black Dahlia, True Confessions, Serpico, Prince of the City, Training Day, Internal Affairs, Q & A, Cop Land, The Departed, Tightrope, Bad Lieutenant, The French Connection, The Choirboys, The Big Easy, Night Falls on Manhattan, China Moon, The Godfather, Unlawful Entry, The Seven-Ups, Romeo Is Bleeding, Magnum Force, Fort Apache the Bronx, Touch of Evil, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shield for Murder, I Wake Up Screaming, The Prowler, Pushover, Private Hell 36, Detective Story, The Big Heat, On Dangerous Ground.


Previous posts with related themes:


The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans

The Killer Inside Me

American Gangster/Tough Guys Don’t Dance

Tribute to Sidney Lumet


.




Search Digby!