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Rampage

Although there have been countless cinematic adaptations of popular video games, the majority of these efforts have been complete disasters.    Flicks like WING COMMANDER, ALONE IN THE DARK, and, let’s be honest, the entire RESIDENT EVIL series, have been torturous to say the least. So, when I learned that there was an adaptation of the 80’s arcade staple, RAMPAGE, coming out this year, I admit that the prospect of watching it was downright depressing. The only glimmer of hope, was that the film was to star Dwayne Johnson, who, despite the career trajectory of most wrestling entertainers who aspire to be actors, is a bona fide movie star. If anyone could make this plot work, it might actually be him.

Rampage, starring the ever-charismatic Duane Johnson as Davis Okoye, is as entertaining as this former arcade game could possibly be!

Despite my initial reservations, I saw RAMPAGE in IMAX, and found myself surprisingly entertained. Johnson stars as Davis Okoye a former special-ops poacher hunter who now heads the primate department at a San Diego animal sanctuary. He is the type of guy who would rather spend his time with apes and canines than actual people. Using sign language to converse, Davis is close with an albino gorilla named George. The two joke, curse, and dig at one another, so when George starts showing unexpected growth and aggression, Davis is determined to get to the bottom of the issues. He soon discovers a mysterious container that was part of an experiment in space that had gone horribly wrong. George, of course, had come in contact with the debris, which infected him with a virus that would increase his speed, strength, size, and fury. Unfortunately for the rest of humanity, the gorilla wasn’t the only being that was exposed to the cloud of nastiness. A wolf and a crocodile also inhaled a decent dose of the airborne contagion, and mutated them both into gigantic killing machines.

While the military attempts to wrangle the creatures, the company who developed the virus (Energyne) is also trying to trap them in order to secure a profit, and a jilted former employee of the corporation, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) claims that she can cure George with relative ease. Energyne CEO Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacy) seem to have a leg up on the competition, and formulate a seemingly ingenious plan. They begin emitting a beaconing signal through an antennae that is perched atop their building. They hope to lure the creatures to the city where they will be able to use them for their own nefarious purposes, regardless of the obvious fact that the monsters are going to decimate any building, or person, that stands in their path.    

The action scenes are as over the top as you’d expect them to be, and it’s easy to get lost in their grandiose absurdity.

If you read the synopsis, know who the leading man of RAMPAGE is, and still purposefully set out to buy a ticket, I certainly don’t think you’re going to be disappointed with the end result. Sure, there is a plethora of cornball dialogue, and a few hit-and-miss attempts at humor, but at its heart, this is as entertaining as this particular production could possibly be. Too often in movies such as these, there is an action hero who seems somewhat out of place for the carnage raging around him, but in Johnson’s enormous hands, this never feels like the case. Whether he is piloting a helicopter as it plummets down a building, or saving multiple lives while battling a gigantic ape as a plane hurtles towards the ground, the crowd-pleasing performer known as “The Rock” executes it all with a believable bravado. His charisma is infectious, and the scenes he shares with a smooth-talking government agent played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes me hope that this isn’t the last time we’ve seen the two share the screen together.

The action scenes in RAMPAGE are as over-the-top as you’d expect them to be, and when seen in the IMAX format, it’s pretty easy to get lost in their grandiose absurdity. The special effects are excellent, with George and his wolf counterpart effectively filling the screen and wreaking havoc throughout. George is a likable monster who goes from flipping the bird to flipping over skyscrapers, and is equal doses of terrifying and endearing. The violence is often fairly brutal, so parents need to be aware that the PG-13 rating is certainly to its limit at times. The wolf’s jaws tear flesh with a bloody savagery, and innocent bystanders are tossed, crushed, and devoured throughout the entirety of the final act. This is when the creatures truly take over, and the effects become the focal point. While George and the wolf were the main players for most of the film, director Brad Peyton does an excellent job of giving brief glimpses at the crocodile creature throughout, but effectively saves him (I’m assuming it’s a “him”) until the moment the movie needs him the most. This revelation provides another unexpected level of entertainment in a film that had more of these moments than anyone could have expected.

Rampage

RATED: PG-13

RUN TIME: 1h 55min

GENRE: Sci-Fi Monster film

STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

DIRECTORs: Brad Peyton

Writers: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel

GRADE: B-

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film in the IMAX format.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.