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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Rampart goes deep into dark world of corrupt LA officer, trying to stay on top

Woody Harrelson, who thought he would never play a police officer, tackles the role of Officer David Brown in Rampart
Photo courtesy Millennium Entertainment
Woody Harrelson, who thought he would never play a police officer, tackles the role of Officer David Brown in Rampart Photo courtesy Millennium Entertainment

By Kelli Henderson/entertainment editor

Just coming out of the Los Angeles riots and into the heart of the Rampart scandal that dealt with crooked cops robbing banks and stealing pounds of cocaine from the police evidence lockers in the Rampart and Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums divisions in the late ’90s, Rampart is the story of Officer David Brown, who is caught in the heart of the mess.

The movie portrays not only the corruption of one of America’s largest police scandals but the mindset one can hold in a scandal that big.

Woody Harrelson, who thought he would never play a police officer, tackles the role of Officer David Brown in Rampart
Photo courtesy Millennium Entertainment

Woody Harrelson stars as Brown, an egotistical and hateful Los Angeles Police Department and Rampart unit officer who is a Vietnam veteran. He is a habitual smoker who revels in the glory of carrying a gun, having a badge and roughing up anyone he thinks needs punishing. He abuses his powers, believing he is the chosen one to do the unit’s dirty work.

The film starts out with Brown driving through his rounds in downtown LA. One day, a Hispanic man runs into Brown in his patrol car and then after wounding Brown with his car door, he tries to flee the scene. Brown catches up to him and deliberately beats him with his baton in an aggressive and deadly manner. There just happens to be a camera watching him, so it is all caught on tape. Unfortunately, this wasn’t his first scandal. Brown is known around the precinct as Date-Rape-Dave. He allegedly killed a man, pre-meditatively, because the man was a serial date rapist.

His personal life is just as messy. He lives with his two ex-wives, who are sisters, and his two daughters, one from each wife. Being the chauvinistic man he is, he still cannot come to terms with his teenage daughter being a lesbian or the fact that neither ex-wife will sleep with him, so he goes out on a regular basis to find women elsewhere. Although he is a man who revels in his “badge of honor,” women have a surprisingly and somewhat strange hold over him. He seems like a lover at heart hiding behind muscles.

Although the film dwells on his downward spiral to rock bottom, it also captures the unimaginable tolerance of the LAPD itself. Brown is given only one day of suspension after the tape is released, and then he is back on the job. They don’t take away his gun or give him a pay cut. The other officers applaud him as he walks through the offices the day after his suspension ends.

After the tape is released, he looks to Hartshorn (Ned Beatty), his elderly mentor, who gives him nothing but bad advice. Brown then goes from bad to worse. He is caught in yet another scandal. This man just won’t stop. So many have let him slide by on his cool demeanor, his veteran stance and his jackass charm. Because of his pride, Brown refuses to try and fix the mistakes he has made.

Harrelson does a great job portraying Brown as an above-the-law cop we could see on the 6 o’clock news tomorrow. Oren Moverman and crime novelist James Ellroy, director and co-screenwriter of Rampart, both agreed in an interview with Millennium Entertainment that Harrelson was the best actor to play David Brown.

“Woody is able to convey a wild, cocky, nihilist sense of humor and the kind of enormous ego that cracks in the course of the façade being ripped off Dave Brown,” Ellroy said.

Moverman, who also directed The Messenger, with Harrelson, said Harrelson was a no-brainer for the part of Brown.

“It was always clear to us that he was the guy to do it. In addition to being an incredibly gifted actor, Woody is a rare combination of many contradictory elements,” Moverman said. “He has charm and humor but also the ability to go dark really fast, to connect with anger and to express a kind of masculinity that can be very strong or silly and childlike.”

Harrelson is known to fans for his pot smoking and anti-authoritarian thinking. He said in the Millennium interview he thought he could never play two roles: a soldier and a cop. He played a soldier in Moverman’s The Messenger and now a cop in Rampart. To get more in touch with his role, he lost 25 pounds, visited the firearm range frequently and spent some time with the real LAPD.

“I found that some cops just want to become cops so they can exert their power and influence over people, but others really do want to help. I believe that deep down, Dave Brown’s impulse was to do good things for people, but then he crossed that line,” Harrelson said. “In his mind, though, he only does bad things to bad people. He doesn’t look at himself as a bad cop. He believes he does violence to those who deserve it.”

Rampart looks into a man afraid of change and his true self. David Brown is a man who society has raised. The film is believable with a crooked cop patrolling the streets.

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