Director Oren Moverman’s last film, The Messenger, is a tense, depressing film that also happens to be extremely well put together and features compelling characters in harsh situations. It is a film that I’m glad I saw but I never want to watch again. Rampart is also tense and depressing but fails to live up to the back half of the equation. At the outset, I was willing to invest in the movie because Brown is set up as a complex character with more to him than you might expect. Somewhere in there is a hint of a decent human being and this was enough to pique my interest. Before long, however, it becomes apparent that whatever shred of humanity there was in Brown at one time has been gone for quite some time and he is, in fact, one of the more unlikeable, terrible people you’re ever likely to come across. And at this point, my interest in the film died.
Now, I don’t have to have the stereotypical redemption story to keep me invested in a film that centers on a retched lead character. A sufficient amount of hate for a character can be just as engrossing as love for a great character. But Rampart doesn’t really illicit hate from the audience directed at Brown; in fact, it doesn’t illicit any emotion at all. Much like a documentarian, Moverman basically lets the camera follow Brown through his day-to-day, miserable existence and while I’ve seen this technique work before, here it just seems to be slogging through the muddy waters of apathy, as if Moverman himself couldn’t muster up any interest to develop his story. I simply could not care less about anything about the events of Rampart nor the characters therein. Eventually I checked out and if I’m being completely honest, there was at least one plot point that I couldn’t understand but didn’t care enough about to go back to fill in the blanks.