REVIEW: Rampage (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Warner Bros. Pictures

The following is a review of Rampage — Directed by Brad Peyton.

Rampage is an action film based on the video game series of the same name that re-teams star Dwayne Johnson with director Brad Peyton, with whom Johnson made 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the 2015 disaster film San Andreas.

Brad Peyton’s Rampage is the kind of movie wherein a kindhearted albino gorilla can show an action hero the middle finger but which also opens with a somewhat serious space station scene, which reminded me a little bit of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, but mostly of Daniel Espinosa’s Life.

But don’t worry Rampage isn’t a serious film. No, Rampage is exactly the kind of popcorn movie that the trailers have shown. Yes, there is a giant flying wolf, which is pretty fun and aggressive, and, yes, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson absolutely is thrown into the middle of a triple threat monster match in the center of Chicago. Rampage is dumb, silly, dumb, and silly. Did I mention that it was dumb and silly? Because it absolutely is.

All joking side, Rampage, the film, follows Davis Okoye (played by Dwayne Johnson) — a catch-all protagonist (i.e. he is a laughably perfect, all-encompassing action movie protagonist) whose main profession is as a primatologist — whose best friend is a friendly albino gorilla named George (played via motion capture by Jason Liles). When three vials of experimental growth serum gas falls from the skies and infects George, Okoye’s best friend starts to grow and he becomes emotionally unstable.

It turns out that the corporation known as Energyne is behind the experimental gas, which has now infected George, an alligator, and a wolf and is slowly turning them into large and aggressive animals. Now Okoye must work together with the genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (played by Naomie Harris) in an attempt to cure and stop the three animals before they destroy major American cities.

It is kind of appropriate for the film’s protagonist to dislike human beings when Rampage, in and of itself, cares very little for human life. Skyscrapers are torn apart, humans are eaten and violently killed, and most of the characters here are downright cartoonish. This is a live-action saturday-morning cartoon with a production budget of around $120 million.

Unfortunately, the sugar-rush effect of the aforementioned Chicago triple threat monster match doesn’t set-in until the final act of the film and, up until that point, Rampage really drags. I wrote in my notes that the final act was really fun, but, to tell you the truth, the rest of the film almost put me to sleep.

It takes far too long for the monsters to, well, rampage through the city streets of Chicago, and the only elements of the film that actually manage to bring life to the film is Dwayne Johnson — the true action movie star of our time — and his bromance-like relationship with George, and then, of course, the ridiculously fun performance delivered by Jeffrey Dean Morgan who definitely knew what kind of film he was in.

It almost feels like Morgan walked onto set while he was still playing Negan from The Walking Dead, then he put on a government agency-appropriate suit, and then the only direction that he received from director Brad Peyton was to be just a little bit more like Matthew McConaughey.

It is cartoonish, but it is definitely an entertaining performance. But it is the only supporting performance that is at all entertaining. Malin Åkerman, who plays the cartoonish corporate villain, and, especially, Jake Lacy, who plays her brother, are so annoying insofar as the film loses any and all life it has going for it when it cuts back to them. They almost feel like recurring video game cutscene characters. Åkerman sort of works, but whatever Lacy was doing didn’t work for me. His performance was grating, to me.

P. J. Byrne, who seems to have been included as the comic relief character, comes across even worse as a disastrously unfunny friend of Okoye. Thankfully, Byrne disappears from the film once he introduces Okoye to Naomie Harris’ character.

Rampage isn’t Shakespeare and it isn’t high art, but it isn’t trying to be. It is a silly and dumb summer movie that audiences can go bananas for, even though they’ll probably forget about its existence once another King Kong or Godzilla movie comes along. While I can’t exactly recommend Rampage as a ‘good movie,’ I absolutely can say that it is exactly what you think it is. A brainless popcorn movie with annoying characters, eye-popping action, cheesy, expository dialogue, and a flying wolf, which may be exactly what you want it to be.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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