Rampart stars Woody Harrelson as corrupt, uniformed Los Angeles cop, David Douglas Brown. Nicknamed ‘Date Rape Dave’ after his unlawful shooting of a suspected serial rapist, Brown blindly believes he only hurts bad people. When he is caught on camera beating a driver who has caused a collision with him, Brown becomes embroiled in an investigation into his own conduct.

Rampart is based on the corruption and misconduct amongst Los Angeles police officers during the Rampart scandal in the 1990s. Harrelson’s character, Brown, is an amalgam of the 70 plus officers involved in the scandal. Living with his two ex-wives (Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon) and continuing to have sexual relationships with both, Brown is also a serial womaniser.


In his first scene, Harrelson gives an immediate impression of Brown’s unpleasant nature as he intimidates a female officer into eating a bag of unwanted fries. As with much of the film, this scene makes for uncomfortable viewing. As Brown tries to break free of a number of charges, Harrleson makes his further descent and consequent, paranoid, desperation both clear and disturbing. Brown is on the edge and Harrelson has his audience tense, constantly fearing what he will do next.

Harrelson is also supported by strong performances from Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, and Steve Buscemi.

There is a great deal to appreciate in Rampart’s style. One particular scene that stands out sees Brown visit a nightclub, where he gorges on food and voyeurism. Here the cinematography (Bobby Bukowski) and soundtrack build a compelling impression of Brown’s unravelling state of mind.


Rampart is tense and brimming with complicated characters. See it for its intelligent examination of a too often stereotyped character (the corrupt cop) and its compelling performance by Woody Harrelson.

VERDICT:   ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

For more information see the official Rampart website