Review: Rampage (2018) — Fun and Frustrating, but Mostly Fun (But Also Frustrating)

Video game movies suck! Is the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson destruction-fest Rampage better than the rest? Luke Miksa tells all:

Based on the classic arcade video game of the same name, Rampage opens with the destruction of a space station, which leads to scattered debris all over the United States. Amongst the wreckage is a mutated pathogen, which comes into contact with a wolf, a crocodile, and an albino gorilla under the care of Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson). As the pathogen mutates these animals into gigantic and violent beasts, Okoye is aided by geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in an effort to stop them before they turn Chicago to rubble.

Rampage 1

Kinda like Jaws, but with a dinosaur.

Director Brad Peyton and star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have become quite a successful duo in recent years, releasing crowd-pleasing action fare such as San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. While not aiming for high-cinema, these films are the perfect kind of entertaining dumb fun which will always certainly have its place, especially when international markets are concerned. Peyton is quickly becoming this generation’s Roland Emmerich, much like Johnson is this generation’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At heart, Rampage is an old-school monster mash, full of action and quips. But despite the relatively family-friendly M-rating, Rampage is actually kind of violent. It’s not Predator by any means, but there is a certain scene involving Joe Mangianello and his mercenaries going up against the wolf (dubbed Ralph) that is pretty intense. There’s also plenty of collateral damage to the city of Chicago once the beasts convene there, and these scenes do show plenty of civilian deaths.

And the carnage is a little awkward considering that the majority of the movie wants the audience to revel in the destruction. There’s something very off about the tone of the film, as it zips from goofy comedy to realistic destruction and violence so often that it’s hard to tell what exactly this movie is trying to be. The action and the spectacle is dumb fun for the most part, until the movie makes you feel bad about it, only to remember that it’s supposed to be light entertainment once more.

As good as the action can be, the dialogue in Rampage is diabolically bad. Johnson has a knack of making the most of a limited script (chalk that up to his previous career in spandex), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is having plenty of fun, but much of the dialogue is clunky exposition. Blame this on an over-complicated plot. Like most movies of the genre, the things that go boom are Rampage‘s strongest suit.

Rampage 3

Just a couple of charisma vessels.

Affable and sweaty, Dwayne Johnson is becoming quite reliable in all of his performances, and Rampage is no exception. There’s a reason The Rock is such a bankable Hollywood star; his charisma on and off the screen is palpable and he is shockingly relatable considering his hulking stature. In his second foray into video game adaptations after the disastrous Doom early in his career, Rampage is no such blemish for Johnson. Naomie Harris and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are quite good also, with special consideration given to Morgan’s cool country swagger. Somebody cast this man in a Western!

But then it all goes downhill. Mere description isn’t enough to express how godawful the villainous siblings played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy are. Especially Jake Lacy. Every time these two were on screen was like watching a completely different movie, and the bumbling, goofy performance by Lacy in particular was straight out of a Mel Brooks movie (but not a good one like Young Frankenstein, a bad one like Dracula: Dead and Loving It). Their dynamic is very similar to Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and Ned Beatty’s Otis from Richard Donner’s Superman. Except, you know, terrible. It’s clear what the intent was with these characters, but unfortunately it is the performances that let it down.

Their scenes also highlight the tonal inconsistencies of the film. Even when these characters meet their demise (not really a spoiler, these kinds of characters always kick it), it’s not really the joy of them getting their comeuppance, but more the relief that they won’t be back.

Rampage 2

The “legally obliged to be albino or we’ll get sued” giant ape.

It’s interesting to note that Rampage was released by Warner Bros; a studio currently building a shared movie universe of giant monsters, starting with the 2014 Godzilla and followed up with last year’s Kong: Skull Island. Which means – technically – it’s feasible that if Rampage hits, we might see Dwayne and his giant albino gorilla join in on the action. And you know what? Do it! We’ve come this far with shared universes (which Warners love but are not very good at) and Ready Player One has shown how the kitchen-sink approach works with a modern audience. So if it leads to a Godzilla/King Kong/Rampage monster-fest starring The Rock, then fuck it, why not?

Throw in The Kraken from Clash of the Titans while you’re at it, WB. You own that, too.

Llama Score: 6My relationship with Rampage is definitely love/hate. I love the performances of Dwayne Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and the action scenes are pretty spectacular. But then I find myself absolutely hating every screen-second of Jake Lacy and Malin Ackerman. I have conflicted feelings much like Rampage have conflicted issues with tone. With that being said, Rampage isn’t trying to be anything other than some B-movie schlock, with the added benefit of a larger budget and some serious star power. It’s mostly fun, if a little frustrating.

Award: RecycleAward: nailsAward: Ash

  • Some pretty damn fun action set-pieces.
  • Dwayne Johnson always entertains, and his chemistry with George is surprising.
  • Marley Shelton is still around!

  • Anything with Jake Lacy and Malin Akerman.
  • The dialogue is like 50% exposition.
  • The Rampage arcade cabinet shows up in the background of the scene, and its existence makes no sense in the context of the film. Silly easter egg.

Directed by: Brad Peyton Written by: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel Produced by: Brad Peyton, Beau Flynn, John Rickard, Hiram Garcia Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Distributed by: Warner Bros Pictures Run length: 107 minutes Australian Release: Out now in all major cinemas
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