Rampage – 4 out of 5
My taste in movies covers a vast spectrum. I am just as capable of throwing love at meticulously crafted features and hard-hitting and emotional movies full of depth and nuance as I am with mindless comedies and popcorn action pieces. I find merit in all forms of entertainment and don’t try to act like I’m somehow “smarter” or “better” than others because of the films I like (and don’t like) or try to act like I’m classy based on my preferences. Nothing beats an emotional exploration of the human condition but sometimes you just want to see The Rock and a giant gorilla destroy some shit and fight monsters. Rampage scratches that insanely specific itch!
|I never thought I wanted to fist bump an albino gorilla but that's now on my bucket|
list...alongside fist bumping The Rock.
Not to be confused with the Uwe Boll film of the same name (which is surprisingly good, considering the director—it’s sequel, not so much), this movie is very loosely based on the arcade game of the same name. It centers on a gorilla expert at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary named Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) and the rare albino gorilla named George he rescued and befriended. One night, a research space station went up in flames and the secret experimental pathogen they were working on came crashing to Earth, unleashing its contents on George. The pathogen causes George to grow and become more aggressive but the gorilla wasn’t the only one impacted by this as a crocodile in the Everglades and a gray wolf in Wyoming were also exposed. In an effort to get their research back, the head of the company that developed the pathogen; Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman), attempts to lure the animals to Chicago. Now Davis must team with a genetic engineer who helped develop the pathogen; Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and a cowboy government agent sent into clean up the mess; Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), in order to stop the monsters’ rampage (eh?) and save his friend George.
|If this thing would have went to New York, it would have become the god of all|
the sewer gators.
I admittedly scoffed when it was announced that they were adapting Rampage. Look, I love the game and have plenty of fond memories of jamming quarters into the game at the arcade (hell, I still play it thanks to emulators) but this game came out at a time where stories existed only to get the action started and not as a continuing motivation for gameplay. Then I heard The Rock was in it and I was laughing no more. There was a time when I didn’t care for his acting but he’s come a long way from The Scorpion King and has really honed his craft and shown that he is endlessly charming and can very effectively headline a film. Suddenly, the movie wasn’t such a silly idea after all and, when the trailer came out, I was all-in. It looked insanely fun. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to see it at the theater but decided to blind buy it when it was unleashed on Blu-Ray and DVD. I don’t regret the purchase at all.
|Damn, this is badass!|
|I honestly half-expected him to have a bat with nails in it.|
Rampage balances being that over-the-top popcorn action spectacle rather well. Some of the performers, mostly from the smaller roles, can’t quite get the level they need to be at and are too over-the-top and silly but, for the most part, the rest of the cast gets that right blend of action movie bravado and campy monster movie schlock this film needed. The Rock, as usual, leads the charge fantastically with his natural charm and charisma and he’s backed up by some great supporting players. Naomie Harris displays some great chemistry with Johnson and they have some great back-and-forth moments in the film. Malin Akerman does a decent job as the antagonist and the evil CEO of the company that created the monsters. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance may hit too close to Negan from The Walking Dead but you can’t deny that his swagger worked for the project. Finally, while Joe Manganiello’s role is sadly small, his scenes were very entertaining and, let’s face it; the dude is a goddamn stud and is able to make his short appearance stand out.
|Manganiello is a stud but let's not forget how fun he was in Pee-Wee's Big Holiday...|
because he was crazy fun in that one.
The action provided in the film is just plain exciting. Yes, it’s easy to thumb your nose at a movie that involves a giant albino gorilla, a wolf with flying squirrel properties and a mega alligator destroying Chicago but the kid in me loved every second of it. There were times, however, that the action took a harder edge than I was prepared for. Granted, you’re not seeing blood and guts everywhere but the film also doesn’t shy away from the reality that these epic creatures are killing people on their path to destruction. However, this element never gets too hardcore and the humor that is sprinkled in along the way helps keep things from getting too dark and keeps the whole film at the right balancing point.
|I won't let my little ten pound dog watch this. He doesn't need to get any ideas.|
Rampage took a video game with barely a plot and made it work with movie-science and monster movie tropes. The film isn’t genre-redefining but that doesn’t take away from how fun it is. The cast is fantastic, the special effects are incredible, and its tone blends the right level of taking its concept seriously enough but also not trying to pretend that it isn’t an over-the-top spectacle.