One of the standard noir plots and of crime fact and fiction in general is about cops becoming robbers. I think that being a cop has to make even the noblest of people vulnerable to the hardening of the soul, to the bitterness that comes when the bad guys make out better than the good guys, when it seems that nothing you do seems to make any difference or when getting by with it looks easy. And of course, not every soul is noble to begin with.
Two films, one heralded and showered with awards and the other nearly forgotten even before it was released are featured here.
The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese, won four Oscars. Scorsese, himself, won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best director. Released in 2006, the film was based in large part on a highly rated Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. What we have is an active-duty cop on the take and another cop doing undercover in a Boston gang trying to ferret him out. It’s a simple plot, but one with suspenseful twists and turns and a cast of Hollywood heavyweights. Where else would you find Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga in the same film? And for good measure there is the inimitable Ray Winstone playing second in charge of the local Irish gang to Boston boss Nicholson, more than keeping up with the scenery-chewing icon. Lots of testosterone. It oozes from the screen.
In The Departed the story is about finding the bad cop. In Rampart, the story is about a police department that doesn’t want the cop found. They are already sinking in a sea of bad PR from the bigger corruption — Rampart, a real LAPD scandal of immense proportions. They don’t want the story of this bad seed and his highly personal brand of corruption to the mess. What we get from Rampart, released only last year, is a lesser phenomenon, but not a lesser film. The corruption of the cop in The Departed is a fait accompli pretty much from the beginning of the film. In Rampart the focus of the film is on one cop, who despite the larger scandal going on around him, finds ways to be corrupt all on his own. He is a guy who wants what he wants and takes it — a man without allegiance. The world exists for him alone. It is perhaps a little less exciting than The Departed, but we delve into character a bit deeper — or try to.
In a screenplay co-written by the famous crime writer, James Ellroy, we watch Woody Harrelson’s cop character devolve from a nasty human being to an even nastier one. While the cast is not the powerhouse of The Departed, we are treated to fine performances from Ned Beatty, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, and Ice Cube, with a cameo by Steve Buscemi.
If you get thirsty or want to feel part of the gang, you might open a bottle of Irish whiskey. If you want to change for the second feature, you could go for beer. Domestic is fine.