A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rampart is a very intense character study about a corrupt Los Angeles police officer. When his beating of a motorist is caught on video, it's a catalyst for his long, slow downfall -- a process that includes several scenes of violence, with the cop beating up or shooting bad guys. He also sleeps with several women over the course of the movie (though no graphic nudity is shown), and language is very strong and almost constant. Plus, the main character drinks and smokes constantly and even illegally obtains prescription drugs from a pharmacy. Director Oren Moverman also helmed The Messenger, which was one of the most acclaimed movies of 2009, but Rampart is much more intense.
What's the story?
Los Angeles cop "Date Rape Dave" Brown (Woody Harrelson) lives with an ambiguous mark on his record: the slaying of a serial rapist. Now, in 1999, two more incidents happen in rapid succession. First, he's captured on video beating a motorist who crashed into his squad car. And later, when he tries to profit from a dirty card game, Dave gets involved in a robbery and shoots and kills a man. During the subsequent investigation, he tries to hang onto his family, especially his two daughters. But he also tries to lose himself in anonymous sex, alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Is there any hope for Dave, or is he lost?
Is it any good?
Moverman's movie is the opposite of its lead character: sober and serious, and with an eye on some kind of social commentary. Moreover, since every scene is intently focused on the main character, the supporting characters -- and the amazing actors who play them -- never get a chance to shine. But Harrelson is given a great challenge, and he more than rises to the occasion. And the screenplay, co-written by Moverman and novelist James Ellroy, often has an appealingly poetic rhythm.
In 2009, Oren Moverman made his directorial debut with the surprisingly subtle, intelligent, and graceful The Messenger. RAMPART reunites him with his two stars from that film -- Woody Harrelson in the lead and Ben Foster in a smaller role -- but the result is a good deal heavier. Looking at this study of a dirty cop, it's hard not to think of the two great Bad Lieutenant films -- Abel Ferrara's 1992 release and Werner Herzog's 2009 version -- and how they were anguished, operatic, and completely loony.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Rampart's violence. Every time the main character does something violent, he finds a way to justify it. Is there such a thing as justified violence? Does the main character's violence ever contribute to anything good?
Though the movie shows very little nudity, there are a lot of sexual situations. What's the difference between nudity and a sexual situation? Do intimacy or trust enter into this equation? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values on these topics.
The character drinks a lot of alcohol. Are the consequences of his drinking realistic?
- In theaters: November 23, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: May 15, 2012
- Cast: Brie Larson, Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, Woody Harrelson
- Director: Oren Moverman
- Studio: Millennium Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, sexual content and some violence
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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