Rampart on DVD – The DVDfever Review


Rampart is the movie that Training Day should’ve been…

It’s Los Angeles, 1999 and Woody Harrelson plays Dave Brown, a simple name for a very complex and angry man.

As Rampart begins, we see he’s a maverick cop working at the LAPD Rampart Division, teaching a rookie cop about how the gangs rule the streets since the riots when the late Rodney King was beaten up by the police. At one point she asks him if he’s worried he’ll get a “128”, which is basically bending the rules to get a successful conviction. However, he calls what he does “emergency law”, aka beating the baddies up to get the answers he wants.

Unsurprisingly, for a man who’s also a womaniser and a drunk, he’s a man who gets no respect from his two daughters, and lives with them all in the same house with both of his ex-wives, Barbara (Cynthia Nixon) and Catherine (Anne Heche), with whom he’s each had one child. He has a nickname, “Date Rape” Dave – and even his eldest daughter, Helen (Brie Larson) calls him that. As for what it relates to – and clearly it’s not complimentary – you’ll have to watch the film to find out.

As his life continues to spiral out of control, he’s videotaped beating up a black man, Shondell Parmallee (Keith Woulard), after the man rams his car from the side and then, as Dave goes to remonstrate with him, he pushes the car door into Dave and runs off. Dave then gives chase and delivers his *own* form of justice, in the form of a beating. Hence, the media refer to it as Shondell-gate, and say it’s what they’ve come to expect from L.A. police officers.

There’s great support from Ned Beatty as Dave’s friend, Hartshorn, who gives him tip-offs from time to time to help maintain his corrupt lifestyle, Ice Cube as Kyle Timkins, whose job it is to ensure that Dave goes down for his misdeeds, Robin Wright (below) as Linda Fentress, one of Dave’s conquests, plus brief appearances from Ben Foster as a wheelchair-bound homeless man known as “General Terry”, as well as Sigourney Weaver as Joan Confrey, and Steve Buscemi as Bill Blago, both of whom are involved in dealing with Dave directly as his professional life falls apart.

Overall, this feels like the film that Training Day should’ve been – albeit with less training, so you can imagine the level of tension throughout. And I know I say this every time I see a Woody Harrelson film, but I really can’t believe this is the same guy from Cheers. He dominated the screen with a tour-de-force in Natural Born Killers and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Personally, I don’t think Denzel Washington can act his way out of a paper bag, but Woody makes for a fantastic screen presence.

As an aside, it’s amusing to learn early on that he’s also the kind of guy who cheats on his taxes, given all the banking-related furore in the press recently…

Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio, Oren Moverman displays fantastic direction with tight framing throughout, making it essential to only see it in the original theatrical ratio, not cropped/open-matte/whatever, just the original ratio. Quality-wise, the picture looks perfectly fine for a DVD with no major problems.

Audio-wise, the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and is mainly used for dialogue, ambience and occasional gunfire. It’s not a special FX-frenzy.

The extras are as follows:

  • Making of Rampart (28:56): Mixing in chat from key cast and crew members, this is a fairly predictable extra that delivers exactly what you’d expect.

    It’s split up into 4 sections, but there’s only one chapter throughout the whole thing. Why? Why are distributors so lacking in thought when it comes to chaptering, especially in the extras?

  • Interviews: One apiece wihth Woody Harrelson (5:25), Ben Foster (2:48), Robin Wright (1:42), Brie Larson (2:02) and Oren Moverman (6:17). All are really too short to give any major detail, however.

    They’re all Q&As with the questions being posed silenty with captions.

  • Audio description: For those who require it.

  • Trailer (2:08): In 2.35:1, it gives a decent flavour of the movie without giving too much away.

The menu features some subtle animation with incidental sound effects and music from the film. Chaptering is far from great with just 12 across the 95-minute film. On the plus side, there are subtitles in English.

Oh, on the downside, there are three trailers, for films which came out ages ago, and a chocolate bar ad! before we get to the actual main menu… they still haven’t learned(!)

To add insult to injury, when I tried to play the film, it threw me back to the opening of the disc again with all of these! To watch the film, I had to go via the scenes menu and select the first one from there. Dave Brown would not be impressed.

Rampart is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.


Detailed specs:

Running time: 104 minutes
Year: 2011
Date of release: July 9th 2012
Distributor: Studiocanal
Chapters: 12
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: DVD9

Director: Oren Moverman
Producers: Ben Foster, Lawrence Inglee, Ken Kao and Clark Peterson
Claire Jones and Andrew Starke
Screenplay: James Ellroy and Oren Moverman
Music: Dickon Hinchliffe

David Douglas Brown: Woody Harrelson
Linda Fentress: Robin Wright
Hartshorn: Ned Beatty
General Terry: Ben Foster
Barbara: Cynthia Nixon
Catherine: Anne Heche
Helen: Brie Larson
Bill Blago: Steve Buscemi
Joan Confrey: Sigourney Weaver
Kyle Timkins: Ice Cube