It probably isn’t even worth mentioning up front that “Rampage” is an exceedingly dumb movie. Unless they’ve achieved iconic status as a statement on era specific sociopolitical phenomena or philosophical musings on the nature of man, giant monster creature features are typically reserved for B-movie fodder as far as American productions are concerned but the movie also shares the distinction of being an adaptation of an arcade video game.
The “Rampage” series isn’t so much an attempt to simulate sci-fi horror B movies as it is to simulate a single aspect of them; giant monsters destroying cities. To that end, the series doesn’t even contain all of the basics to set up the most bare bones of narratives possible, just provisions for a single set piece.
“Rampage” was always going to be stupid by nature of what it is and as long as it can land an entertaining feature along with that, there’s nothing wrong with that and while I wish it succeeded in embracing the camp of its source material a bit more, the film is nonetheless harmless B-movie fun.
As the film opens, awkwardly exposing the audience to the evil corporate antagonists and their view of human life as expendable, that ultimately leads to their research in genetic editing being exposed to wild animals, the appropriately cartoonish villains, played to almost intentional comedic effect by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, the film provides a brief and fascinating glimmer of possibility that the movie may go above and beyond the call of duty.
Dwayne Johnson serves as the handler for an albino silverback gorilla in a wildlife sanctuary. The gorilla, George, is portrayed via motion capture technology by Jason Liles and his nonverbal chemistry with The Rock is genuinely charming and heartfelt. Once the aforementioned mutation comes into play however, things take a turn mildly worse but no less entertaining.
The acceleration of the plot to assemble its giant mutated alligator, gorilla, and wolf is a tried and true B-movie riot from start to finish. The creatures each have unique flourishes that make them visually fascinating and fun to watch on screen while their absence leaves us to revel in the cheese of its cast’s performances. Akerman and Lacy are smarmy to extents of nearly being parodies of villains in bad direct-to-video films, while Jeffery Dean Morgan enters the fray as a government agent who I’m not unconvinced decided to simply shoot his role in between takes of episodes on “The Walking Dead” as his famous mannerisms are so hilariously out of place the mere image of him standing on screen with a lean for most of his shots had me giggling.
“Rampage” is a consistently fun ride from start to finish for all of the right and wrong reasons. It’s only real hang up is that the only person that doesn’t seem to be in on its own joke is the director. This was a film in dire need of a “Fast and Furious” style self awareness, as the only parts of the movie that really drag are the ones where it buys into its own stakes and asks us to accept that The Rock can fight a giant lizard side-by-side with his giant gorilla tag team partner while shaking off pain from bullets that visibly make contact with his body.
Because it isn’t technically a good movie, I find it hard to recommend for a theatrical outing but “Rampage” undeniably succeeds at being a faithful translation of its simplistic source material that’s not a terrible way to kill two hours.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.