Mixed reaction to Moverman’s ‘Rampart’ in Toronto, some measured praise for Woody Harrelson

Posted by · 6:04 pm · September 11th, 2011

One of the more anticipated Toronto bows, for me, is Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” follow-up, “Rampart.” I was a big fan of his last effort and have been intrigued by the possibility of Woody Harrelson bubbling up in the Best Actor race (assuming a studio bites on the film).

But things aren’t looking stellar for the film just yet, as most of what I’m reading is negative, with a few positive bursts here and there. (Just judging by the cross-section, though, I expect to be on board.) More reactions will come throughout the fest, so this early glance isn’t necessarily meant to establish the overall perception.

Starting with the trades, Variety’s Justin Chang calls the film “well-wrought,” singling out Harrelson by offering that the actor “is excellent as a cynical, trigger-happy officer oblivious to the fresh winds of change and accountability sweeping through his embattled department.” He nevertheless found the film on the whole to be a “not entirely satisfying character study.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt is down on the film, too, accusing that “where The Messenger found that truth within the trauma of war and its aftermath, Rampart finds only emptiness.”

Over at Movieline, Stephanie Zacharek offers one of the few positive assessments. “[T]he more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the movie ended in just the right place,” she writes, “taking us as far as we can go with this loose-cannon cop before he’s left to face his own isolation. Once we, the audience, part ways with him, he’s truly on his own.”

The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth was similarly impressed, particularly with the aesthetic, detailing “a great sequence in the second half of the film in which Dave, nearing rock bottom, spends a night wasting away at an underground industrial club. Once again, Moverman side swipes a conventional approach and deliver[s] something we’d expect from someone like Gaspar Noé.”

Screen Daily’s Howard Feinstein calls it the film “self-consciously disjointed” and pretty much disses the film on the basis of being contrived. He offers measured praise for Harrelson’s performance but makes it a point of noting that the actor’s method here “could prove too solipsistic for some.”

Interestingly, Feinstein brings up the setting of the film, Los Angeles, accusing it of feeling like a “construct.” I noticed at the New York Times’ Arts Beat blog that Michael Cieply chose that as his angle, observing that “the city, clearly by design, only sporadically looms large in a picture that is really, as they say, about the people.”

At the end of the day, even the negative assessments have me interested.

[Photo: Waypoint Entertainment/Amalgam Pictures/Lightstream Pictures]

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9 responses so far

  • 1 9-11-2011 at 8:14 pm

    Michael said...

    Bummer, I was hoping this film was going to really catch on and add some new blood to the awards conversation. That cast is just too damn intriguing for me to not want to take a look at this film at some point. Hopefully some studio is going to jump on board and release it, but I have a feeling that without uniform critical support the film is not going to be much of a factor in any awards campaign.

    Something is bound to come out of TIFF and surprise us all, right? We can’t already know all the films that are going to be nominated this early can we? (don’t worry, that is kinda a rhetorical question just in case anyone is wondering…)

  • 2 9-11-2011 at 10:29 pm

    Renaton said...

    A Gaspar Noé mention, even if the review is meant to be positive, is never a good thing.

  • 3 9-11-2011 at 10:39 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Not true.

  • 4 9-12-2011 at 3:47 am

    The Other James D. said...

    I’m with you in the negatives only picquing my interest further. I don’t expect it to be the best thing ever, but it’s not deterring me in the slightest. I feel more encouraged now to get a load of Harrelson’s performance. It’ll surely miss Oscar’s radar, judging by this reception, but might live on as a cult/fan fave/whatever sort of performance that lingers for us enthusiasts beyond the conclusion of awards.

  • 5 9-12-2011 at 3:47 am

    The Other James D. said...


  • 6 9-12-2011 at 8:21 pm

    what said...

    EW just gave it a rave.

  • 7 9-12-2011 at 9:41 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    For posterity’s sake, they gave a B+ to 30 Minutes or Less and an A- to Gran Torino, but a C of some sort to Little Miss Sunshine. They’re hardly the beacon of good judgment.

  • 8 9-12-2011 at 9:49 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Yeah, Owen Gleiberman was over the moon for “Rampart.” He also really disliked “Shame.” Very interesting and refreshing reversal of opinion!

  • 9 9-12-2011 at 9:51 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    The only reason you’re so ecstatic about that is because you feel it’s vengeance for Bergman. :P