December 15, 2011 -- This gritty tale of a corrupt cop covers an arc from a time when he is sort of in control of his life to a time when his life completely falls apart. It is a tale of a man in denial of what is happening around him. Woody Harrelson stars as Dave Brown, the cop in denial. He lives at home with his family, but has frequent one night stands with women he meets. He is dogged by controversies about his abusive nature, his disregard for the law, and a possible murder he committed some time ago.
The department brass want to get Dave off the force because he is a public relations disaster for the department, especially after he is caught on camera severely beating a man who drove his car into Dave's police cruiser. All this happens while the department is reeling from the massive LAPD Rampart scandal in the 1990s. Instead of stepping aside and taking early retirement, Dave fights to keep his job, burning through money for lawyers, he gets desperate. An old friend, Hartshorne, a retired cop, tells him of a high-stakes poker game where he might be able to pick up some quick cash.
His daughters Helen and Margaret (played by Brie Larson of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and Sammy Boyarsky) and ex-wives (Anne Heche of “Cedar Rapids” and Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City 2”) all want him to move out of the house (but not to stop paying alimony). Closing in on him are an investigator, Kyle Timkins (Ice Cube of “Are We Done Yet?”) and a deputy district attorney, Joan Confrey (Sigourney Weaver of “Cedar Rapids”).
Even when Dave meets a sexy new lover, Linda Fentress, (Robin Wright of “Moneyball”) he becomes suspicious of her because she is a lawyer who might be working against him. Dave is paranoid, and for good reason. It does seem like a number of people are turning against him. He tells himself he has done nothing wrong, but he can't quite fool himself into believing his justifications for the things he has done. Dave's downward spiral to doom is inexorable, but Dave keeps trying to find a way to wiggle out of the predicament he has gotten himself into.
Harrelson gives a great performance as a man out of control. He isn't just evil. He has a number of facets to his personality. It is a nuanced performance. He has a lot of anger inside and he doesn't let it loose all the way very often, but he lets it show in little ways. Much of the suspense of this movie is that you never know what Dave is going to do next. This film rates a B.
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