‘Rampage’ Review

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.

Rampage

3.5 out of 5

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‘Sabotage’ Review

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Dir: David Ayer
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Max Martini, Harold Perrineau and Olivia Williams
Synopsis: Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.

 
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 
John “Breacher” Wharton (Schwarzenegger) is a veteran DEA agent who leads an elite, hardcore special ops team, most of whom we only know through nicknames: “Grinder (Manganeillo), “Monster” (Worthington), “Neck” (Holloway), “Sugar” (Howard), “Pyro” (Martini), as well as the regularly named “Lizzy” (Enos). During a raid on a drug house, they attempt to steal $10 million, but when they go to retrieve the money, it’s missing. Forced to lay low, the team eventually reunites only to start being picked off one-by-one. Local detective Caroline (Williams) and her partner Jackson (Perrineau) come into investigate, and Caroline reluctantly teams up with Breacher to find out who’s murdering his team.

 

The promotional material has sold Sabotage as an all out action movie, whereas it’s really a mystery thriller, and a character-driven one at that. Every character is shady or at least a little shady, including Arnold’s “Breacher” character. You would think that DEA agents that are tasked with talking down cartels or ruining their plans would be professional to some extend but our “heroes” will act out, drink, do drugs and not even worry about taking arrests, they simple kill their targets. This is all a bit odd because at first we are rooting for the team. There is a real camaraderie between them and the banter between them seems real. But once everything goes to hell, they change completely and we as the viewer are left wondering if we should like anyone one of these people.

 

Sabotage is almost unlike anything Arnold’s done before. The first time we see him in this movie he has his head in his hands, sobbing and helpless. Arnold really does commit to it and it’s nice to see him try to do something so different at this stage in his career. But, of course, being Arnold he still appears to be settled comfortably into the role of the grizzled, old soldier who can still kick ass. Which he does here.

 

But, it’s supporting cast that also helps Arnold out in the end. Joe Manganiello and a nearly unrecognizable Sam Worthington play their members who view Arnold’s leader as a surrogate father. Arguably the show-stealer is Mirrelle Enos as Lizzy, the team’s only female member and an ass-kicker in every sense of the term. The only other female cast member in the movie, Olivia Williams, is a no nonsense cop who gets sucked into the teams hell and is a somewhat love interest for “Breacher.”

 

Harold Perrineau as Williams’ partner has some nice banter but doesn’t really do much. Josh Holloway as “Neck” has some memorably lines. But, Terrence Howard is really under-used and you sometimes forget he’s around unless he speaks. They really could have gotten any one else to play the part. But, such is the problem with some ensemble casts. Some are bound to fall in the wayside.

 

The movie also has some few blind-siding plot twists that will probably divide people but they kind of work in the end, although they could have gone a different way to show them. One truly comes out of nowhere and I felt it probably didn’t need to go that way because at the end it didn’t really matter. Still some of twist where nice to see and made the movie different from what it could have been.

 

All in all, Sabotage is more a mystery thriller with action sequences scattered throughout. The movie can get a little clunky in some areas but overall the movie is enjoyable enough and will keep you guessing until the end.

 

Sabotage
3.5 out of 5