'Rampage' Is an Action-Packed, Smashing Good Time

Rampage, based on a simple and plotless 80's video game, starts off in outer space right in the middle of a catastrophe. Disaster has struck within the confines of a small ship and rocketeer Dr. Kerry Atkins (Marley Shelton) is fighting for survival after a dangerous experimental virus has caused her crew to go on a rampage. Created and controlled by a shady corporation called CRISPR, it’s essential that this substance makes it safely back to lab… but of course, it doesn’t.

Cut to the idyllic San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary, where former marine and anti-poaching cop Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) works. He enjoys caring for endangered species, especially apes. His best friend is a rare albino silverback gorilla called George (a composite of motion-capture actor Jason Liles and CGI). George knows sign language—Okoye has even taught the clever primate how to give the finger and the two trade good-natured insults along with other kinds of fun. That is, until the space-junk hits planet earth and poisons George, making him grow huge and highly aggressive.

To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are two other similarly affected animals. As these newly-forged alpha-predators tear across the U.S., destroying everything in their path on their way to the heart of the Midwest, Okoye teams up with disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris, Moneypenny from the James Bond franchise) to secure an antidote. Fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield but never at a loss for glib quips, Okoye races to stop a global catastrophe and save the fearsome creature who was once his friend.

Since the game is literally just about giant radioactive monsters destroying high-rise buildings, the screenwriters had to come up with an awful lot of mumbo-jumbo to justify the film’s nearly two-hour runtime. The cast of characters includes CRISPR’s mustache-twirling villains: a greedy sister and brother team played by Malin Ackerman (Children’s Hospital) and Jake Lacy (Girls); Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Good Wife) as Agent Harvey Russell, a deep-undercover government operative; and heartthrob Joe Manganiello (True Blood) round out the players as a mercenary hitman sent to take out the targets.

At their peak proportions, the wolf is 50 feet high, 85 feet long, and weighs over 13 tons; the croc clocks in at 60.7 x 225 feet, weighs a whopping 150 tons; and the ape is as big as a house. Let’s just say, not everyone survives. The creatures may be the main attraction in a monster movie like Rampage, but without Johnson keeping the whole mess under control we’d be in for another Godzilla 2000.

Kid-friendly action hero Johnson… oh, who am I kidding? Everyone loves The Rock! …is sure to bring a horde of fans who want to see how he manages the unruly trio of carnivorous creatures and even scarier big-business baddies. But is the trek to the theater worthwhile? The answer to that depends on your family’s tolerance for endless rinse-and-repeat action. It’s one thing after another in Rampage, which is expected—it’s a disaster movie, after all. Cities are shattered and puny humans are pulverized with panache. The action sequences are nicely-built. But when it comes to dialogue and plot, well, there isn’t much to fill the flimsy framework.

The all-star cast is largely wasted. Maybe Oscar-nominee Harris (for Moonlight), just wanted to share the screen with Johnson. One of the best comedic actors in the film, P.J. Byrne (Big Little Lies), is stuck with such inane, cringeworthy lines, I actually felt sorry for him. Morgan, who is no slouch, seemed to struggle with his dialogue, which included statements of the obvious such as: “Welp, you saved the world!” Manganiello escapes embarrassment, mostly, as he’s only in the movie for about five minutes.

Only Johnson is wholly immune, getting away with howlers like these: When Okoye miraculously survives what appears to be a fatal wound, he jumps up, stating, “I guess it didn’t hit any major arteries!” Then when he sees a boat full of people capsized, he cracks, “Well, that sucks.” Yes, folks, it took four ridiculously high-paid screenwriters to come up with those gems, and more.

The movie is rated PG-13 for violence, mass destruction, brief profanity, and obscene gestures but given its limited scope, Rampage is best suited to action-loving kiddos. They’ll love seeing the crazy creatures wreak the obligatory havoc and watching Johnson save the world with his trademark charisma and charm. Even I, in spite of my criticisms, didn’t dislike the film at all—it’s big, dumb fun.

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