Review: Rampage

Genre: Action, Adventure, Monster, Science Fiction
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, PJ Byrne, Demetrius Grosse, Jack Quaid.
Year Of Release: 2018
Certificate: 12A (UK)
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Director: Brad Peyton
Writer(s): Ryan Engle, Carlton Cruse, Ryan J. Condal & Adam Sztykiel
Synopsis: “When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.” IMDB

 

This 2018 American monster film, directed by Brad Peyton and loosely based on the video game series of the same name by Midway Games, stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

When an Energyne top-secret science experiment goes wrong in space, canisters containing a gene mutating pathogen are catapulted to Earth in a devastating explosion. The canisters crash-land in the Everglade swamps, a Wyoming forest and a wildlife preserve in San Diego.

Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) notices a dramatic change in his albino gorilla George; he is growing at an alarming rate and showing volatile, violent tendencies. The arrival of Dr Kate Caldwell (Harris) confirms that the mutagen created by Energyne is responsible. George escapes, rampaging across America, along with a mutated wolf and crocodile. CEO of Energyne Claire Wyden (Åkerman) lures the beasts to Chicago to capitalise on the mutagen for profit. Davis and Kate must prevent the mutated beasts from destroying everything in their path and stop them, and Energyne, before it is too late…
One of my movie based New Year resolutions for 2018 was to watch more indie films. It’s going well, ticking a few boxes, ho-hum. But my other resolution should have been “Stop slating The Rock for his movies”. Twice I’ve gone into a film he’s headlined and twice I’ve had bucket loads of fun and left being nothing but entertained, which is what I want when sitting down for 2hrs with my popcorn after a hectic day.

First, we had the surprise smash ‘Jumanji’ and now we have ‘Rampage’. Only Dwayne Johnson could bring gravitas, humanity and common sense (sort of) to a loud, dumb action movie based on a series of narrative thin video games where three huge beasts destroy various cities and people for points. Hardly Hollywood material, but then if you can make millions from ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ and, er, ‘Super Mario Bros’, then anything is really possible with the right talent.

We have it here in ‘Rampage’. Director Brad Peyton teams up with Johnson again after 2015s ‘San Andreas’ to bring us a monster movie the likes we’ve never seen before. Not one CGI beast, but three, going at it across America and “rampaging” across Chicago for a finale that puts the city-wide destruction from ‘Man Of Steel’ to shame because this is done better! The visual effects are pretty tight, and I have to say that our albino gorilla George is one of the best characters I’ve seen in a film, not just CGI. His relationship with Davis is surprisingly heartfelt and played beautifully making the whole film and its outcome one big joyful payoff from how Johnson plays against a CGI gorilla.

While the film is certainly out there, it’s never played for dumb laughs, which I appreciated. It’s tongue-in-cheek at the best of times, but it’s also done very well. Johnson and Harris treat this as the threat it is supposed to be, rather than phoning their performances in. There is a great amount of threat, some horror and adrenaline-fuelled stunt-work that keep you hooked rather than just a “join-the-dots” action movie you probably expected. King Kong or Godzilla this is not.
Malin Åkerman is one of those alluring villains you just love to hate, and she really shows she doesn’t give a s**t about anybody but herself and her company, making her the perfect corporate crook to pull the strings. We also have stellar support from Joe Manganiello in his “blink and you’ll miss him” role, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan who gets better in each scene he’s in, certainly giving some of the wittier moments in the film. It’s a film for the family (just), but there is a surprising amount of mild scary and grizzly moments that may unnerve younger viewers. I appreciate the fact the tone of the film isn’t watered down; you see plenty of death (I was surprised by just how many people are thrown around, stomped on, crushed, eaten…) and plenty of beastly gore. But, it all adds to the overall power these beasts punch with and makes something that could be pretty boring somehow exciting and pulse-pounding.

‘Rampage’ sets out to entertain you, that’s all. It wants to make you jump, sit on the edge of your seat, laugh, cry (maybe) and just have a good time and escape. The cast and crew know this, none more than Johnson, and they all deliver the goods to help you invest and do just that. Even George gains huge responses from the audiences with his actions.

Whether Johnson is battling these giant beasts in a transport plane, at the top of a skyscraper or around city streets and whether he’s using a railgun, an Apache helicopter, a metal pipe or a tranquillizer gun, this is one film bordering on Schwarzenegger territory – dumb, loud, grown-up fun!

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