First Hit: Outstanding acting performance by Woody Harrelson in a non-glorious role and story.
Set in 1999, love the cell phone and antenna, this story is about a renegade cop from the Rampart Division of the LAPD.
This division was going through extremely tough times from internal mismanagement, theft, and public scrutiny of their police practices. Dave Brown (Harrelson) smokes all the time, never eats, drinks too much and numbs himself with drugs.
His family includes two ex-wives Catherine and Barbara (Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon respectively) and two daughters, one from each. They all live together while Dave lives in a small apartment unattached from the house the others live in. This is his family and he thinks he’s responsible for everyone in this family.
His police department moniker is Date Rape Dave for his hand in killing what was perceived as a date rapist.
The opening scene, where he is speaking with two other cops from Rampart Division at a parking lot food stand, sets up Dave perfectly. He thinks he’s king of the hill, all knowing, in-charge and operating almost as an independent contractor. At one point he is driving in his car and is hit broadside. He gets out of the car, seemingly to find out what is going on and the driver of the other car abruptly opens his door and hits Dave. Then the perpetrator starts running away. Dave catches him and is filmed beating him almost to death.
This makes all the news stations and becomes yet another PR nightmare for LAPD. Dave is smart, won’t retire and doesn’t back down from his departments’ investigative team.
They are after him. It is clear that they can make him part of the Rampart problem and they can make him the focus of other problems as well. His family wants him gone because they cannot stand the public scrutiny and all things are stacking up against him.
There are some shots here in this film I found fascinating, specifically; when Dave and LAPD department heads and Dave’s lawyer all are talking in an office and the camera just goes in a circular clockwise motion from person to person. This was extremely effective in relaying the tenseness of the discussion and the circles we can create in conversations and the way conversations can go round and round.
The scenes, dialogue and references to actual issues of the time created a well focused film.
Dave’s belief that he is the guardian of our time and LA is profound and extremely well done by Harrelson.
Harrelson shows why he is an amazing actor. Look at his resume from "Natural Born Killers" to "Zombieland" to "Friends with Benefits" to "The People vs. Larry Flynt" to "White Men Can’t Jump", he has a wide range and each time the audience knows he is invested in the part. Heche is great as one of Brown’s wives, the one who is more emotional about the relationship. Nixon is good as the other, more centered, wife. Brie Larson as Helen, one of the daughters is very strong is reflecting the life she has. Sigourney Weaver as Joan Confrey and part of the LAPD team investigating Brown is powerful in her role and a great addition to this film. Robin Wright as Linda Fentress is an attorney who tricks Brown into sex and information is great. Ned Beatty as Hartshorn a former police officer is downright great as a puppeteer pulling the strings. James Ellroy and Oren Moverman wrote a very strong script. Moverman really nailed this script and the characterization of this real life character.
Overall: This film is dark, has little joy, but is relentless in providing a strong and clear picture of a man digging deeper into his own hole.