'Rampage' brings action, not much else

By Adam Pilskog

Anyone who spent any time in a video game arcade remembers “Rampage” and its three monstrous characters: George (gorilla), Ralph (wolf) and Lizzy (lizard).

The film doesn’t stray too far from the premise of the game; the player chooses one of the large mutated beasts and climbs and destroys buildings while attempting to avoid military interventions. Simple, to say the least. The creative minds behind the film decided to throw The Rock into the mix, because virtually every action movie can benefit from The Rock (obviously). What unfolds on the screen is really more carnage than rampage, but the idea of translating the game to a film is intriguing enough to warrant a viewing.

Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) works at the San Diego wildlife refuge with George, an albino gorilla with whom he shares a special relationship. They communicate through sign language and fart jokes, and we discover early on that Davis is more of an animal lover than a people-person. Davis also happens to be ex-special forces and a helicopter pilot (both of which come in handy later in the film).

When an unethical experiment in space goes awry, three normal animals (George included) are exposed to a chemical that causes genetic editing, rendering them large, aggressive, indestructible and unpredictable. From there, humanity’s fate depends on Davis and Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) finding the antidote and stopping the beasts before they destroy Chicago. Oh, and the U.S. military is completely ineffective, and there are a pair of billionaire siblings who have some inexplicable nefarious plot. Never mind all that — the three beasts are on a rampage, and only The Rock can stop them.

If my plot synopsis didn’t sell it for you, imagine “Die Hard” meets “Planet of the Apes” meets “Pacific Rim” monsters. It’s simply a Saturday night popcorn experience at its core, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it at times. The one-liners and Dwayne Johnson one-man wrecking crew is classic Bruce Willis in his heyday, which I certainly could appreciate, and the destruction would make Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “2012”) proud.

The supporting cast is highlighted by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy as the siblings, Joe Manganiello as the gung-ho mercenary sent to kill the animals (he fails), and most notably Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the overacting Texas-drawling cowboy who mysteriously works for the OGA (other government agency). His character is ridiculous, but tries to pull off a boyish charm that just doesn’t quite work. It’s a fun role, but clearly demonstrates severe overacting and is almost a distraction in itself.

Director Brad Peyton (several past Dwayne Johnson films, the upcoming “San Andreas 2”) is clearly adept at action. He partners with a foursome of writers who all have ties to each other (and Dwayne) from past and future projects too numerous to list. My point is it’s a team that is reinventing the wheel time and time again, using an action hero archetype that is frankly getting old.

Unfortunately, my admission ticket simply helps perpetuate the cycle, and will prove that if it makes money, it’s worth doing over and over. I have a feeling this one will underwhelm despite favorable projections, however, with a certain film coming out in two weeks that will absolutely decimate box offices all around the world.

Preposterous in every way, this idea that genetic editing can evolve a creature significantly within minutes just adds to the playful mood. The action gets a bit more violent than one would expect, as there are more human casualties on screen than necessary, but the three monsters are fun, violent and primal.

Johnson is once again superhuman, achieving what the entire might of the military fails to accomplish, but that’s the nature of an action hero. Move over Bruce, Arnold and Sly; Dwayne is the king of the silver screen. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he becomes the highest grossing star of all time by the time his career is over.



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