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Rampage Movie Review

Rampage (2018) movie poster Rampage

Theatrical Release: April 13, 2018 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Brad Peyton / Writers: Ryan Engle (story & screenplay); Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel (screenplay)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr. Kate Caldwell), Malin Akerman (Claire Wyden), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Harvey Russell), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), Joe Manganiello (Burke), Marley Shelton (Dr. Kerry Atkins), P.J. Byrne (Nelson), Demetrius Grosse (Colonel Blake), Jack Quaid (Connor), Breanne Hill (Amy), Matt Gerald (Zammit), Will Yun Lee (Agent Park)


It's a curious thing. Dwayne Johnson has vaulted his way to ranking among America's favorite movie stars and he's done it without starring in one movie that most of us can agree is good. He's been in movies that have made lots of money (like the recent Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and movies that have slightly exceeded low expectations (the Fast and the Furious sequels he's in). And if Moana were live action, it'd fit the bill. But mostly he's just kind of coasted on being a likable personality: the big muscles, the nice smile, the graceful aging, and the fact that he's not above dopey comedy despite his imposing stature.

Rampage is the latest vehicle sold primarily on Johnson's charm and it absolutely extends his streak of not great movies. This one, which reunites Johnson with the director of his profitable yet atrocious 2015 disaster movie San Andreas, is based on the old 1980s video game of the same name. If you're among the many who have never played or heard of this arcade staple, it basically involved giant animals laying siege to tall buildings in a city while military forces tried to shoot them down. That is the ultimate destination of this substantially-budgeted mindless action flick, but first we get new answers to the questions no one ever asked. Who are these animals and how did they get here?

In the video game, the giant monsters used to be humans. Here, though, they were regular-sized animals. Well, at least that is true of the one we are meant to care enough about to get his story. That would be George, an albino gorilla that primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) rescued from poachers as an infant. In the present day, Okoye and George are best friends. The army-seasoned doctor hates people and loves animals and the playful George loves to play jokes on him.

In "Rampage", a disgraced scientist (Naomie Harris), a conscientious primatologist (Dwayne Johnson), and a southern government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have to deal with the military regarding some rapidly growing monsters.

But it's no joke that one night wreckage from space comes crashing down. It is vials of research performed by a corporation that engaged in "genetic editing", a process that was outlawed for its warfare potential. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time gets George struck with some gas that causes him to grow considerably in a hurry. It also gives him uncharacteristic aggression that puts everyone, especially Okoye, on edge.

Suddenly, Okoye is butting heads with a smarmy Southern agent of an unnamed government branch (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and with the military that are enlisted to capture George and two other giant, destructive threats that have emerged: a 30-foot grey wolf and a vast crocodile. We can only assume those two were regular animals also hit by the same dangerous stuff that struck our principal ape at his San Diego preserve. The wolf and the crocodile also featured in the game (well, as a werewolf and lizard, respectively), which brings very little to the table here narratively.

Teaming up with Okoye is Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a scientist for the big evil genetic editing corporation who is not forthright that she has actually been fired and incarcerated. Her former company, headed by an icy sister (Malin Εkerman) and dorky comic relief brother (Jake Lacy), function as villains, trying to cover their tracks from prying authorities while also enlisting a for-hire assassin (a dramatically introduced and short-lived Joe Manganiello) to bring in these mutated animals dead or alive.

In the film "Rampage", primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) stands by his friend George, an albino silverback gorilla who begins growing and growing more aggressive.

Rampage is dumb and loud and there was no reason to expect anything other than that. The budget for this film has not been documented or publicized but Johnson commands in the neighborhood of $20 million a movie and it's safe to say at least that much was spent on the rampant visual effects that feature so prominently in this action-heavy movie.

I could rag on the dearth of intelligence in the screenplay attributed to four veteran scribes (whose past credits include Johnson's Hercules and San Andreas), which doesn't even bother coming full circle, introducing characters early that simply vanish from sight. But this isn't like A Wrinkle in Time, where you expect, or at least hope for, something worthwhile. This was always bound to be like San Andreas, only with giant animals. There's no surprise or disappointment... just the kind of third-rate popcorn movie no one will be watching ten years or probably even ten months from now.

Movies don't really care about shelf life these days. At most, they can hope for one or two weekends of solid ticket sales, which is really all Rampage can hope for, with the new Avengers movie opening in just two weeks. Rampage got bumped up a week to avoid that big superhero sequel for at least seven more days. And judging from the huge turnout at my "IMAX" screening, it should probably do just fine in those two days, as people flock to the combination of an actor they like and big scale action around him. You already know you can do much better and only slightly worse than this.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: A Quiet Place • Ready Player One • Isle of Dogs
Dwayne Johnson: San Andreas • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle • Central Intelligence • Pain & Gain • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island • The Fate of the Furious
Naomie Harris: Moonlight • Collateral Beauty • Southpaw | Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Magic City: The Complete First Season • Heist • The Possession

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Reviewed April 11, 2018.

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