Thursday 12 April 2018

Film Review: Rampage

Giant monsters face off with The Rock in Rampage, a film that doesn’t feel the need to offer anything more than that basic concept or uphold a consistent tone. 

You know those direct-to-video monster mash movies that The Asylum and Syfy put out a few years ago with titles like Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf? Well, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s latest blockbuster Rampage is essentially the $120 million version of that, only with bigger names, bigger biceps and a bigger appetite. 

Loosely adapted from a video game series of the same name from the 80s, Rampage sees Johnson play Davis Okoye, a primatologist whose beloved albino silverback gorilla George goes bananas after being infected with a mysterious serum that modifies its genes. Rapidly growing in size, speed and aggression, George fights alongside a giant grey wolf and an even larger crocodile as they tear through the streets of Chicago, while Davis must find a way to bring an end to the carnage. 

Johnson has made a name for himself off the back of muscular action movies, and Rampage is probably his most outlandish yet. Reteaming with San Andreas director Brad Peyton, Johnson once again tells subtlety and grace to go suck it, in a film that sees the beefy wrestler/actor steal a helicopter on three separate occasions, as well as stare down a giant mutant crocodile with nothing more than a grenade launcher and a plain white tee. He does uphold that squeaky-clean family man image though, rebuffing the advances of thirsty female interns at his work. What a man. 

The plot, which sees Johnson join forces with Naomie Harris’ woolly scientist character, speeds along without a care or a worry for weighty concepts like logic. Because, let’s be honest, who cares how and why things happen the way they do – we just want to see a massive gorilla slap a giant wolf across its snarling maw, and Rampage dutifully obliges. 

The entire third act is dedicated to the titular riot, which sees the beastly triumvirate tear through downtown Chicago, flinging helicopters and upturning Humvees. It’s frankly amazing that four screenwriters were required to piece together the remarkably simplistic script. 

However, as dumb and silly as that stuff sounds, I reckon Rampage could’ve done with even more dumb and silly stuff. Johnson relishes the chance to gaze into the middle distance and spout some catchy one-liner, but more often than not it’s uttered with sincerity, not his trademark eyebrow-wiggling bravura. 

The action is too heavy-handed with the 9/11 imagery and too light on the button-mashing, barrel-flinging Donkey Kong arcade noise that one would expect from the central conceit of giant animals trampling cities. The villains, two squabbling corporate types played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, aren’t afforded enough furniture on which to chew either. 

The Verdict: 5.5/10

While the premise sounds goofy, director Peyton stops short of fully embracing Rampage’s inherent wackiness, and instead tries to balance video game madness with some straight-laced kaiju seriousness.

Rampage is in cinemas across Australia now.

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