Largely known so far for straight to DVD/VOD fare ("Trespass," "Blitz" "Shadows and Lies" with James Franco) and some theatrical releases, (Chris Evans' "Puncture") Millennium Entertainment might seem, on the outside, like a strange fit for "Rampart," Oren Moverman's cop drama and follow-up to excellent 2009 film, “The Messenger.” But as the recent acquisition of Richard Linklater's black comedy, "Bernie" suggests, the company is in the middle of a rebranding strategy, and moving away from B-movie fare.
Starring Woody Harrelson, and co-written by Moverman and venerable crime novelist James Ellroy, "Rampart" follows veteran L.A.P.D officer Dave Brown (Harrelson), the last of the renegade cops, as he struggles to take care of his family, and fights for his own survival. Set in the early '90s when L.A.P.D. corruption was rampant, "Rampart," appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival this year to heavy praise, particularly for Harrelson's smoldering performance as a sinking soul of a man who's his own worst enemy.
Shortly after TIFF, Millennium Entertainment (and not Millennium Films as misreported by the New York Times) acquired North American rights and announced their intentions of releasing the film during the 2011 Oscar season. True to their word, Millennium has now set "Rampart" for a November 23 limited release. However reps for the film told the Playlist this afternoon something that's been unknown until now: the outing will be a one-week only Oscar qualifying run in New York and L.A. The drama will then open officially on January 27 in a platform release.
While Millennium may not seem like an Oscar player on the surface, no one could have guessed the equally new and hungry indie Oscillioscope Pictures had the Awards-season muscle to help earn Harrelson a nomination for “The Messenger” either. Furthermore, they've made two important moves, bringing on Millennium Films’ Mark Gill as a consultant and hiring Oscar PR vet Cynthia Swartz's new company Strategy PR to lead the charge.
“We’re expending an enormous amount of energy in a hurry to get it out this year,” Mark Gill, told the New York Times. “I think that after last year’s Oscar nomination for ‘The Messenger’, Woody has a good shot at being in the middle of things, and we plan on using that to make sure people see this really great movie.”
Out of Toronto, Playlist scribe Kevin Jagernauth described the film as, "a wildly ambitious slow burn that succeeds immensely, powered by one of the best performances of Woody Harrelson’s career."
Produced by actor Ben Foster, who starred alongside Harrelson in "The Messenger" and has a small role in the film, ironically this band of brothers almost had a falling out before the riveting drama hit the film festival circuit. Harrelson told the grey lady that when Moverman showed him the first cut, he was horrified. "When I first saw the film, I hated it. It was very different from the script, and that was a problem for me. As much as I love Oren, we couldn’t see eye to eye over it"
Indeed, he was so disappointed that he originally planned not to do press for the film. "I got a call saying that it had been accepted to Toronto," the actor says, "and they asked me to come, and I said 'Why would I come to promote a movie I didn't like?'" Fortunately, his co-star/producer Foster wasn't ready to give up -- "Ben Foster called me and said: 'Woody, you've got to man up, this is family. You need to see the movie again.'"
So Harrelson did go to Toronto, and had a change of heart when he rewatched "Rampart." "So I'm watching it," he says, "and the first 5 minutes are great, then the first 20, and I kept waiting for the problems, so I could tell Oren where I think it heads south -- and it never came. I love the movie. I saw Oren and said: 'Well, it takes a man to admit he was wrong. I was really wrong on this one." The film is clearly going to be a matter of debate for movie fans and awards watchers through the rest of the year. Those in L.A. and New York, should mark it on their calendar now: starting on November 23rd, you'll be able to catch the film early for one week and if you miss it, you'll have to wait til January.
The powerhouse cast also includes Steve Buscemi, Robin Wright, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon, Brie Larson, and the aforementioned Foster. A few new "Rampart" images and clips below. This first one is nearly five minutes. The New York Times has another exclusive clip here.
[Images via Sierra Affinity]