One of my favorite films from this year's Toronto International Film Festival, "Rampart," which has an Oscar-qualifying one-week run starting this Friday in theaters, is a deeply fascinating portrait of masculinity in crisis, and as I argued after Toronto, shares with "Shame" — another favorite — a depiction of a man descending into personal hell, swallowed up by his very own testosterone. And though it's about the Rampart scandals of years ago, its vivid depiction of corruption and the excesses of law enforcement should prove greater resonance in these tumultuous days of pepper-sprays and baton beatings.
I don't want to overstate the political relevance of the movie, as it's ultimately a character piece, of course, depicting a sort of slick and charismatic tight-fisted machismo that's collapsing from the inside.
For this Variety article, I spoke to Moverman about the project, who told me about collaborating with James Ellroy on the adaptation of the author's novel and first drafts. "I wanted to out-Ellroy Ellroy," Moverman told me, speaking about the proliferation of clever dialogue and curse words, which create a kind of "street poetry." "It was that kind of rhythm that was really interesting to me."
"The biggest problem of the script is that it was really huge," he continued. "It needed a lot more money than an L.A. based independent movie could sustain. My job was narrowing it down. It had a complicated plot that was hard to follow, it seemed brilliant, but brilliant beyond explanation."
"And as I started getting more drafts for me to direct, than it became a more interior film than an action film. I became more interested in his character, and the consequences of his actions."
After newbie distributor Millenium Entertainment tries to galvanize Oscar buzz for Woody Harrelson in the next week, they'll release the film wider in January. I hope it gets seen. Along with "Drive," it's one of the best films I've seen set in Los Angeles recently.
Here's the newly released trailer below: