Mark Reviews Movies

Rampage (2018)

RAMPAGE (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, P.J. Byrne, Joe Manganiello, Jack Quaid, Breanne Hill, Marley Shelton

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 4/13/18


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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 12, 2018

I'm not certain which is more ridiculous: the premise of Rampage, in which a trio of animals are genetically modified into bigger versions of themselves, or Dwayne Johnson's hero in the movie. Look, science can do some amazing things that look like magic or yesterday's science-fiction, so maybe, one day, we'll have to worry about a tall gorilla, a giant wolf, and a massive alligator attacking various locations across the United States. We probably won't, because who, other than some mad scientist with loose morals and unlimited funding, would do such a thing?

As for Johnson's character, he's a San Diego-based primatologist named Davis Okoye, who seems capable of doing just about anything that the movie requires him to do. Let's accept that he's preternaturally empathetic towards apes, capable of talking down a wild gorilla that's new to the wildlife sanctuary where he works. We can buy that, because, after all, Davis taught an albino gorilla, the last of its kind, to communicate via sign language, to make an assortment of vulgar gestures, and to structure a decent joke.

OK, we've accepted this. Now, the story begins, with three samples of some DNA-tampering pathogen falling from space and landing at three locations in the U.S.: the Everglades, a forest in Wyoming, and, of all the luck in the universe, the habitat of the last-known species of albino gorilla in the entire world. George, the gorilla, begins growing. He kills a grizzly bear. Davis puts the ape in isolation, and Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the scientist who developed the pathogen, arrives. She drops some obscure acronym for genetic modification, and of course, Davis, not only has heard of it, but also can give a succinct explanation for what it is.

We could call Davis a jack-of-all-trades, who knows just enough about any given subject to throw around some redundant exposition when the story requires. He's also, by the way, a veteran of the Army Special Forces, who moved on to stop poachers in Africa. This means that he's resourceful to a supernatural degree and pretty much invincible. By the time the giant monsters start climbing Willis Tower, Davis has survived a plane crash, given a heartfelt monologue about humanity's cruelty toward nature, flown a helicopter, and endured a gunshot to the abdomen. The gunshot seems mostly like a mild inconvenience to our unstoppable hero, given the way he simply keeps his hand over the bloody wound. With the wound, he climbs to the top of the skyscraper, flies another helicopter, unloads a grenade launcher, and outruns a giant alligator.

Johnson is perhaps the only modern movie star who could sell such a conveniently, consistently, and transparently useful hero. If the filmmakers are going to try to convince us that their hero could be an expert on apes, an amateur in genetic science, a do-it-all former soldier, and able to survive a gunshot with little to no detrimental side effects, they kind of have to cast Johnson.

The movie itself isn't quite as silly as the things it requires from its hero. Well, it is, of course, since it features a genetically altered gorilla, wolf, and alligator, but you get the point. The screenplay, adapted from a three-decades-old arcade game by a foursome of writers (Ryan Engle, Carlton Cruse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel), takes its monster mashing and bashing fairly seriously. "Serious" is, obviously, a relative term in such situations. What it means here is that the screenwriters and director Brad Peyton put the giant creatures in a few scenarios where they can cause chaos and destruction, while everyone around the monsters plays the assorted scenarios with a straight face.

There isn't much monster action here, save for George's short-lived rampage at the wildlife sanctuary, a hunt for the wolf in a forest that gets a good laugh for a well-timed glob of canine drool, and an attempt to sedate George on a cargo plane that goes into freefall. Most of the destruction is saved for the movie's backend, with George and the wolf leaping on and through buildings, pummeling military vehicles on Upper Wacker, and eventually climbing and taking down Chicago's most iconic skyscraper. While it might just be a matter of proximity to said skyscraper talking, the sight of a building falling in a major metropolis for entertainment purposes still doesn't sit right. Hey, the alligator's first appearance is intimidating, though.

The humans are, well, fine enough for their limited purpose. Johnson is convincing enough in a completely unconvincing role. Harris' character at least isn't reduced to an inevitable love interest. An amusing Jeffrey Dean Morgan is featured as a cowboy of an agent from a clandestine government agency, and Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy play the corrupt, brother-and-sister moguls who started this mess—and get what's coming to them in gruesome ways.

It's all absurd, yet the filmmakers barely, if ever, acknowledge that indisputable fact. Rampage is, as they say, what it is. Take that as you will.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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