Somewhere along the line in his career, Woody Harrelson is going to win an Oscar. If not for one particular role, but for his body of work.


That body of work includes roles that were - at the very least - courageous. "The People vs Larry Flint", "Indecent Proposal", "Wag the Dog", the very controversial "Natural Born Killers", "Zombieland" and now "Rampart".


Probably his most defining role was serial killer Marty Knox in "Natural Born Killers" because he was still fresh in out minds as the affable Woody Boyd from Cheers. What a dynamic range!

With that in mind, it is not that much of a stretch to watch him as a reprehensibly corrupt Los Angeles cop in "Rampart".


Rampart refers to the Rampart Police station that was very recently discovered to have participated in widespread corruption including several rapes, murders and robberies. Most notably its officers are tied to the murder of Rap Star Notorious B.I.G. and an close affiliation with the Bloods street gang. The film makes not references to those cases, but uses Harrelson's character as a representation of the corruption collective.


He is Officer David Brown, a hold over from the good old days of immediate police justice - before the investigation revealed the widespread corruption. But now he has been caught on tape beating the crap out of a guy. But his reputation goes back to when he hunted down and killed a date rapist who - in the mind of Brown - had it coming.


He learned from the best; Ned Beatty plays his mentor, another old school veteran who is slim and proud of it. He helps set Brown up for robberies of drug dealers and illegal gambling. All for a cut of course.

But Brown extracurricular police activities almost pail in comparison to the strange relationship he's involved in with his two ex-wives played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche. They are sisters, each with a child by him and... they all live together in one big twisted home.


In his mind, Brown is doing the best he can to provide for this extended family. But the women, particularly Nixon's character Barbara, wants it to end. Add to that his odd relationship with criminal defense attorney Linda Fentress (Robin Wright) who, like many in her field, can't stand the scum she represents. She too wishes things went back to the days of immediate justice.


After all his misdeeds, he is being dogged by an internal investigator concerned with the robbery of the robbery of a high stakes poker game. A incident that may have been set up by Hartshorn (Ned Beatty). But an incident for which Brown is not willing to take the fall.


Butfor all his efforts Harrelson's Brown is not the most disgusting corrupt cop we've seen. Prior to trying to find redemption, both "Bad Lieutenant" characters played by Harvey Keitel and later by Nick Cage were worse. It would have been nice to see Brown with a more serious kind of drug addiction that we saw in "Bad Lieutenant". But he is more vile than Denzel Washington's bad cop in "Training Day".


Nevertheless, Harrelson puts forth yet another believable role as a high risk character. I enjoyed his justifiable evil that he flaunts while reciting almost professorial quotes. But if falls off near the end with little to no payoff.


"Rampart" is another well made procedural by director Oren Moverman who worked with Harrelson in "The Messenger". And like that work, this film lets everyone off the hook, when we really need that hook set for closure.   -- GEOFF BURTON