Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, P.J. Byrne and Joe Manganiello
Synopsis: When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Loosely based off the popular 1986 video game, Rampage is another team-up movie for director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, San Andres) and Dwayne Johnson, which just like San Andreas, is a dumb fun action movie that gives you enough to be entertained, but not enough to be an extremely great movie.
Rampage follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), who has a friendship with an albino gorilla named George, who he’s looked after since George was young. Unfortunately, George gets accidently infected by an experiential, and illegal, toxin that makes George grow in size, and increases his aggression. This puts the two of them on the radar of disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who knows exactly what’s going on with George, and an unnamed government division lead by Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Problem is they soon discover that George isn’t the only animal that got affected by the toxin.
Like I mentioned, Rampage is just a dumb fun action movie that slowly makes its way to the third act where giant animals beat the holy hell out of each other. And let’s face it, the original game wasn’t all the groundbreaking with a story. It had humans being turned into the giant animals and destroying cities. Here, they took the more grounded (?) approach and had them already be animals, that just turn big, which isn’t the worst move to make in a movie based off a video game. But, more importantly, the movie knows what it is by the end. I mean, Johnson’s Davis at point says, in the most deadpan way Johnson can deliver a line, “of course the wolf flies.”
That being said though, Rampage does have some tonal changes throughout that would otherwise make me deduct points from other movies. The relationship between Davis and George feels real, and while the joke around – as seen in the trailers – the rest of it is pretty serious with Davis really worried about his friend. There are also moments of real danger that are truly frightening, which makes sense given we have giant aggressive animals, and then we cut or remember a comedy beat that almost gives you whiplash. One of those scenes frightening scenes involves Joe Manganiello’s character Burke and a unit of soldiers hunting down the wolf (named Ralph).
Rampage though all falls onto the hands of the human cast. We got Dwayne Johnson doing his usual Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson things, and while they try to get an emotional story going, it happens a little too far into the movie to really attach to it. Naomie Harris is a tad bit wasted here, who has a backstory that is teased, but isn’t brought up until way later in the movie. Then you have Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing southern Negan agent Harvey Russell, who just chews up every scene he’s in, to a great effort. Also, if you can get more Johnson and Morgan team ups in future movies that would be great.
Unfortunately, the human villains lack a lot. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy play siblings Claire and Brett Wyden, who run the company that created the toxin. Lacy’s Brett plays the annoying, cowardly businessman who doesn’t want to go to jail, while Akerman is the more serious and conniving one of the two – too bad her acting is too wooden. The problem is they’re just evil, at least Akerman’s Claire, for the sake of being evil and making money – innocent victims be damned. My biggest grip with the duo is that they aren’t memorable at all. Akerman, however, is part of one of the most ridiculous and tonal whiplash scenes in the movie.
All in all, Rampage is one of those movies you just got to have fun with. It’s not a movie you should expect to have an amazing story, Oscar worthy performances or deep psychological thoughts, especially since it’s based off a video game from the 80s about giant animals attack each other and destroying cities. At the end of the day, Rampage is silly fun, albeit sometimes it gets pretty gruesome, with a pretty good final act.
3.5 out of 5