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This film is a star vehicle if there ever was one. Or is it? I am merely wondering whether Woody Harrelson is a “star” in the way movies define them? He seems to me to be outside the star system in a pleasant way. He has featured in a great number of great movies, has almost always played a crucial role, if not the lead. He has a recognisable and watchable face and physique, and he oozes this atmopshere of brooding easily turned into peril whenever the wrong person says the wrong words. But naming the 10 greatest movie stars of the past two decades, would there be many who would remember to mention him? I would, but then again, maybe I am … you know …

Seems to me director Oren Moverman (whose 2009 “The Messenger” I really have to catch up with, got that on my list for three years now) wanted to make a film about this Harrelson phenomenon, rather than about a crooked cop. It can be argued that the crooked cop genre has been terminated by Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant” anyway, so there is no point in replicating it and asking another actor to fill Harvey Keitel’s shoes. At face value, it is a similar film: the over-the-top performance and stylization of Keitel’s earlier character is mellowed down in this more verite-style (and more American) film. There is only one centerpiece (despite some impressive support casting, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Robin Wright and Ned Beatty…), and that is Harrelson, who has the role tailor-made to his filmography and face. This is an ageing face, one that seems to indicate that the person wearing it actually has been through a lot, and might look like the face of Peter Mullan in “Tyrannosaur” very soon.

“Rampart” works excellent as a study of this ageing man who realizes that his ways may not be the ways he wants to carry on until a lonely and angry death, maybe it’s a morality tale, maybe a Bildungsroman-style exploration of a crucial conjunction in a man’s life. What it definitely is is an intimate and very well-directed, atmospheric genre piece, giving Woody Harrelson the platform he deserves, and maybe finally elevating him into people’s consciousness for good.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rampart_2010/

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