Starring Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown, a cop in Los Angeles in the 90s. He is bossy and brutal. He is caught on film beating up someone who accidentally crashes into his car. Harrelson is under investigation and rejects advice to take retirement. He is corruptedly involved in a robbery and killing after being helped by an elderly mentor. He has two divorced wives, who are sisters. He has an affair with a woman he thinks may be setting him up.
Written by James Ellroy this is a better film to listen to than watch. You might think that police corruption and brutality are pretty well worn stories, but this film adds new details. Harrelson is very articulate and is not browbeaten by white collar advice. He can state his case with eloquence which is in ironic contrast to the brutality he so readily resorts to when attacking suspects. Furthermore Harrelson’s domestic set up is interestingly almost ‘bohemian’. His kids are arty and not afraid to talk back, one calls him “Date Rape”. We see no actual violence inflicted on his family, and one wonders if the violence is channelled into work so saving his home life from it. At work he insists on the prerogatives of the authoritarian bully, that menacing pedantry that will have its way even if not actually backed up by force. A fellow police officer can’t eat her chips, he insists she finish them and she complies. His sexual encounters turn from the predatory to self loathing as he descends into a hell awaiting well deserved retribution. He doesn’t know how he can achieve self redemption which is all the more fascinating, given his eloquence one would have thought some kind of curative self analysis wouldn’t be impossible. He seems transfixed by a self pity that can turn vindictive. He is a study in isolated guilt. This is an obsessive’s Los Angeles, rather like in that night time film set in LA in which Tom Cruise plays a killer, you don’t see much of the normal routines. The camera sways up close and doesn’t retreat much. We see tour bus sights of Los Angeles, all gleaming affluent gated retreats which are a facade for all kinds of moral let down and criminality, and then square miles of streets of neglected anonymity waiting to be predatorily pin pointed by the cruising police man in his car. He usually wears black mantis shades entitling him to their secretive vantage points. Harrelson became famous as the country bumpkin in Cheers and I couldn’t stop thinking about that. His face is like a hunk of glazed ham that’s been squashed in a vice. His chin looks like an offensive weapon as his beady manic eyes laser on his victim. Sigourney Weaver plays his boss who suggests retirement, all effortless cynicism. The other women play the familiar role of the patiently suffering guardians of sanity, though you wonder why such intelligent women could ever have had anything to do with such a nasty guy.