Two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson has never been wary of tackling controversial roles, with a resume that includes memorable turns as a psychopathic serial killer (Natural Born Killers), "Hustler" founder Larry Flynt (The People vs. Larry Flynt), a drag queen (Anger Management), a costumed vigilante (Defendor), and an officer who spends his days meeting the families of recently-deceased soldiers (The Messenger), among many others.
Harrelson has been earning a good deal of buzz during the early stages of the 2011 Oscar season for his performance in Rampart, a "dirty cop" drama that reunites the actor with his Messenger director, Oren Moverman, and features a script co-penned by James Ellroy, a celebrated crime drama author/screenwriter whose credits include the original L.A. Confidential novel and the movie Street Kings.
Here is the plot setup for Rampart:
Los Angeles, 1999. Officer Dave Brown (Harrelson) is a Vietnam vet and a Rampart Precinct cop, dedicated to doing "the people's dirty work" and asserting his own code of justice, often blurring the lines between right and wrong to maintain his action-hero state of mind. When he gets caught on tape beating a suspect, he finds himself in a personal and emotional downward spiral as the consequences of his past sins and his refusal to change his ways in light of a department-wide corruption scandal seal his fate.
Now check out the official Rampart trailer, along with two new clips, one of which is an excerpt from the film's NSFW opening sequence (NOTE: You will have to watch the latter over on JoBlo, for the time being):
The early critical consensus on Rampart (which had a short Oscar-qualifying theatrical run back in November 2011) is overall solid, and pegs Harrelson's performance as being just as ferocious and fearless as this early footage would have you believe. Combine that with some excellent creative talent working behind-the-scenes and an all-star cast that includes thespians like Ned Beatty, Ice Cube, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, along with Cynthia Nixon, and Rampart sounds like a must-see, regardless of how well it manages to fare throughout the remainder of this year's awards season.
On a side note - any fans of The Hunger Games who are still iffy about Harrelson playing Haymitch Abernathy after watching this Rampart footage... well, you really shouldn't be.
Rampart begins a wide theatrical release around the U.S. on January 27th, 2012.