Having never played the game Rampage I was starting from ground zero. I knew nothing of the rules, story or its characters and as far as I was concerned it was a clone of Donkey Kong (Rampage, the game, was released in 1986 and Donkey Kong was out in 1981). Still, when you have the star power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as your lead, you know there is the potential for lots of fun and most of the time he delivers. With Rampage, he re-teams with San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island director Brad Peyton and they seem to have a certain chemistry as director and actor. “The Rock” is a larger than life and Peyton knows how to use his stature to sell films and so does The Rock, for that matter.
With Rampage, it is a mixed bag of goodies. Some things work, others things don’t. As the film opens Davis Okoye (“The Rock”) is a primatologist who has cared for George, an albino primate since the ape was born. They communicate with sign language and seem to have developed a friendship. When a crate containing dangerous toxins crashes to Earth from an exploding space station, it infects three animals, one of them is George. They mutate into gigantic creatures and wreck havoc in Chicago. Why Chicago? The company that created the pathogens is located there and it is run by Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her dimwitted brother, Brett (Jake Lacy). It seems that Claire has jacked up the radio frequency in order to attract the animals there. Why on earth would she want that?
This was the big problem for me with Rampage. Their scheme makes no sense at all. It would only be a matter of time before the authorities figure out what Claire and Brett were up to. There is no plausible end result that works out to their advantage and this is a big issue with the plot of Rampage. Most people will not be going to Rampage for a succinct or believable plot and I think the filmmakers are counting on it, too. Davis, a fired employee of the Wyden’s, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and a snarky federal agent, Harvey Russell (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and the only three that stand in the way of these creatures. How is The Rock as a primatologist? I guess if Bruce Willis can play a doctor in the recent remake of Death Wish, then The Rock can play a primatologist. Regardless, The Rock has enough charisma to carry this one to its end.
I suppose the real meat of this film is the action and visual effects. On that level Rampage is a solid action film; solid enough, that is. It is also predictable and very silly. Most of these characters are an afterthought with the visuals and the action set pieces being in the forefront of the story. The characters have been placed in and about the rest of the film around the visuals, instead of the other way around. If that is okay with you then, Rampage is for you. It is mindless and relatively enjoyable on its face value, but that is it. The Rock is impressive as he really commits to this nonsense and does it with a straight face. Naomi Harris is fine as the good doctor and Jeffery Dean Morgan is doing his best to not act like Negan from the Walking Dead, but ends up doing it anyway. Regardless, he is sufficient as Russell, if nothing else.
Director Peyton directs with the same flair and energy that he cruised through San Andreas with and there is not a dull or boring moment in Rampage. If only the same effort had been applied to the script and story. Writers Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel have done their best to write a decent script but it ends up being pretty cheesy with characters staring at CGI effects and exclaiming, “Oh…my…God!” In addition to the beasts, there are the two human villains of Rampage (Claire and Brett) that are given no backstory and seem to be cardboard cutouts of other villains from countless other films. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacey do their best but they are forgettable as the villains. They simply did not scare me or make me believe that they could pull off any kind of crime of the century. They are fine actors, no doubt, but are wasted in a recycled plot as hackneyed characters that are really not given much to do. However, Andrew Lockington’s score is excellent as it enhances the action pieces nicely.
So am I recommending Rampage? I guess I am with reservations. What I look for is a little different from what others might look for. Rampage has its moments. The integration of the CGI as well as the interplay between the humans and the primates is impressive and the final climatic battle is pretty hardcore. There are other films out there that are worthy to see before Rampage (A Quiet Place and Black Panther for starters) but with no less than TWELVE films either in production, set for release, or in post-production it might be action overkill for The Rock. These films can all start to look and sound the same and Rampage will get lost in the shuffle. However, for now, Rampage is popcorn fun, but that is all.
Rampage – **3/4 out of 5
Rampage – Rated PG-13 for language, sexual innuendo, violence, scenes of peril and some light gore.
Rampage – Run time is 107 minutes.
Rampage is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.