STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON; NAOMIE HARRIS; JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN; MALIN AKERMAN
DIRECTED BY: BRAD PEYTON
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
So, this is where we are now? The ideas in the movie well are running dry, where what's left are properties of Midway's mildly popular 80's arcade games to become vehicles for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to harness his star power. This time, he battles genetically modified monster animals, with loads of destruction, leaving buildings in piles of rubble at his feet. Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas) makes films that fit into the genre of other noisy blockbusters, such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, or Battleship, but Rampage is highly aware of what it is. This is a B-movie with enormous action and a big Hollywood name to draw the masses. It is mindless fun for audiences and if it wanted to be a better movie, it would have deeper characters for us to care about. Either way, Rampage is clunky, crashing good fun, but leaves our minds smashed to smithereens in the end.
Dwayne Johnson is Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the San Diego Zoo and best friend to a rare albino gorilla named George. Davis is also a former marine who fought poachers, uses sign language to communicate with his primate friend, and when needed, he beats up bad guys with his fists. That's The Rock for ya, he can do it all. The premise of Rampage is simple, an evil corporation called Energyne, lead by Claire Wyden (Main Akerman) and her doofus brother Brett (Jake Lacy), have been working on a secret pathogen in space that turns animals into super weapons. An accident involving a giant rat leads to the pathogen falling from the sky, infecting a wolf, a crocodile, and our friendly ape George. The next day, George has tripled in size, becomes extremely angry, and breaks loose from captivity. Davis must team up with geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris) to stop the monsters from destroying cities and save his big animal friend in the process.
It would be easy for me to dismiss a film like Rampage simply for the fact that it does not need to exist. If you have seen films such as Kong: Skull Island, Pacific Rim, or Godzilla then you've seen it all before. Even those movies had a bit more style. What works in Rampage is director Brad Peyton's ability to balance large scale monster battles with set pieces where Dwayne Johnson plays hero. The WWE smooth-talker, turned big-budget movie star has been hit and miss for me- I was not a fan of his new Jumanji. But here, it works because he's able to blend into the action, including an airplane crash & rescue sequence that feels taken out of the pages of Point Break, and a climactic battle on the streets of Chicago that includes the astonishing destruction of the Sears (I don't call it Willis!) tower. The narrative moves fast and the action is on an enormous scale.
The problems with Rampage lie in the script from Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel, which involves one-dimensional characters, especially the villains. Akerman's baddy is evil without a purpose. She seems to just want to see what happens when a bunch of enormous animals run wild on the streets. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Agent Russell is not as mean as he initially seems, but it's more of Dean Morgan playing his Walking Dead character Neegan than anything original. There is zero difference in his two performances. Naomi Harris is limited to being just along for the ride with Johnson and you know it's a bad sign when the CGI ape is the character with the most depth.
What becomes the most fun about Rampage is the enormous large scale action and mountains of destruction (Do see this on the biggest IMAX screen possible). The chaos in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel seems like a 3-car pileup of Fiats, compared to this. When we finally arrive to the climactic battle, Davis must try to stop the animals before they levee the entire city, it turns into an all smash, crash, and boom extravaganza. And that's when the fun begins. It's the cinematic equivalent of a toddler smashing up his Lego's, only this time Dwayne Johnson is there to save the day. Don't expect to be smarter when you leave Rampage, in fact the constant chaos will most likely be draining to some, but it you prepare for what it is, you might have a smashing good time. Rampage on.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady