Ever felt a bit like you want to see stuff get smashed up by a mutated giant animal? Of course you have. When you’re sat in traffic, with no foreseeable end, in blistering heat, with Jeremy Vine discussing current affairs tosh on the radio, a Godzilla roar and an explosion would be a godsend. You can make all the art house cinema visions you please or deeply layered dramas you desire but sometimes the order of the day is “Big Monsters. Bigger Johnson” (their words not ours), so, happy to oblige, here comes Rampage.
Loosely based on the arcade game of the same name from 1986, Rampage tells the story of primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), who has learnt a lot about the evils of man in his work over the years. This means that he invests most of his time in his simian pal George, a highly intelligent and rare Albino Gorilla, whom he communicates with amazingly well. This friendship is about to be tested by science gone wrong though, as fallout from a weaponised experiment causes George to abnormally grow in size and aggression and Okoye must uncover the truth behind these shady goings on and how to save his friend. Worse news is to come too, as George isn’t the only animal affected…
Rampage is precisely the film you expect it to be and (for this writer anyway) this is to its benefit. When a film opens with a space station fracas involving a giant rat or a flying wolf dispatching mercenaries, you know precisely where you are with Brad Peyton’s monster movie. The plot is straightforward building-crashing stuff, as three genetically enlarged and enraged beasties are on a collision course for Chicago and a god-challenging corporation try and weaponise nature, with ill after effects. Unlike guff like Geostorm this knows what story it is telling and unexpectedly offers some heart to back up the action. As some flashbacks have poignant relevancy, not to mention a much welcome and timely anti-poaching stance, which – intentional or not – stands as a constantly powerful reminder of the damaging evil of this black market (well before ‘ol Bomb Voyage in the White House stuck his over tanned hooter in) industry which chimes with recent events.
Like an old school nature attacks flick from the bygone era (before todays SyFy Channel age of churning out Piranhacondazilla or whatever other thoughtless bab) of when filmmakers embraced the ‘huge animal on the attack’ tropes and actually cared about the films they were making, Rampage is completely fun. Johnson is his usual charismatic self, as he plays a character distant of mankind and has fun with the lead role and the film as a whole (a film he drastically had some say in the making of actually). The rest of the cast, also make a fine hash of things as they mostly play familiar archetypes and/or react to the constantly impressive CG assisted mayhem. Naomie Harris stands out as discredited genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell, while Watchmen’s Målin Akerman enjoys being a cold corporate exaggerated villain and Jeffrey Dean Morgan steals the show as the unflappable agent Harvey Russell (basically a nicer Negan), an antihero who has cool chemistry with near enough every co-star (even a rat in small case).
This film alters its source material for the big screen, it has its share of dumb moments and it is plain and simple carnage with some 12A pushing content but even if it isn’t as memorable as some of its genre’s ilk, it is a lot of fun. When seeing an enormous monsterous croc emerge from the rivers to face down a hoard of tanks it is hard not to be in awe of the big-scaled ridiculous entertainment. While this may be seen as damning it with faint praise, Rampage is no doubt one of the most enjoyable movies ever based on a game but it’s also a great big dollop of monstertertainment with a heart, morals, action scenes and well-designed creature roster as huge as its lead man’s arms and charm.
RAMPAGE / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: BRAD PEYTON / SCREENPLAY: RYAN ENGLE, CARLTON CUSE, RYAN J. CONDAL, ADAM SZTYKIEL / STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON, NAOMIE HARRIS, MALIN ÅKERMAN, JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN, JAKE LACY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW