Oren Moverman’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated The Messenger sees the writer/director again not shying away from challenging subjects and the downright bleak.
Dave “Date Rape” Brown (Woody Harrelson) is an unapologetic misanthrope who is happy to dish out merciless beatings. Sometimes he even shoots people. He’s also a member of the Rampart Division of LAPD, which serves the mostly-Hispanic communities of Downtown Los Angeles. The “Date Rape” moniker refers to an incident in which he’d unlawfully (allegedly) killed a serial rapist. This is a real-life case and one on which the film is based. Brown’s case is ongoing and he gets into further hot water with Internal Affairs as the film progresses. For all his cowboy cop ways he’s a smart guy and, helpfully, something of a hotshot when it comes to all matters legal.
His violence, misogyny and racism - to name just a few of his key attributes – helps him to flush his life down the toilet. It’s a tough watch at times but insanely compulsive viewing. The director shows flair and ingenuity in capturing the heat and intensity of driving a black and white on LA’s mean streets. And the dialogue crackles. Although there have been many James Ellroy film adaptations he is rarely involved in writing the screenplays. Ellroy actually scripted this, with Moverman, and it’s a joy hearing his uncompromising words coming out of the actors’ mouths. Impressively, some of those mouths belong to Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, Cynthia “SATC” Nixon, Robin Wright, Ice Cube, Steve Buscemi, Ned Beatty (well into his seventies and nice to see him still doing good work) and the talented Ben Foster (who also takes a producing credit). But it is very much Harrelson’s film. Adding to a career of interesting choices, he completely inhabits the role of an intensely-dangerous man: the police officer you’d never want to be caught by.