Directed by: Brad Peyton
Written by: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Swift shot: Rampage was by far one of my favorite arcade games to play as a kid. It was simple and fun with a bit of a twist, you were the monster. You got to smash buildings, cars, and eat people as either a giant werewolf or a massive gorilla. For a kid with a lot of pent up video game rage, Rampage was the perfect place to escape watching my friends who could master combos on Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. So when I heard about a film adaptation of the game starring The Rock, I was like – yes please!
Back in 1993 there was a genetic program called CRISPR which was created to potentially cure cancer. This is an actual program; you can read all about it here.
Like most well-intentioned scientific breakthroughs, in Rampage some nutballs want to weaponize CRISPR and sell it to the highest bidder. Enter Energyne, a corporation ruthlessly controlled by Claire Wyden (Akerman) and her pathetic walking skin suit of a sibling, Brett (Jake Lacy). From the opening scene we are given a taste of how ambitiously evil Claire is as she shows zero regard for human life.
Meanwhile across the country in San Diego, primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) is teaching a fresh group of students about how to interact with gorillas. He introduces them to a rare albino silverback named George (Jason Liles), who Davis has a long endearing history with.
But some of Energyne’s research winds up in the ape sanctuary, and other places, and leads to one of the best action movies based on a video game . . . well ever! As much as I liked Battleship, yes really, I felt that story was a bit too insane, while the story in Rampage is pretty far-fetched (that was a wolf joke) there was enough grounded reality that made it feel authentic.
Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris) finds out about the wayward research and makes her way to the sanctuary where she convinces Davis that she can help the now rapidly growing George. But she’s really too late, and soon after they meet, they are detained by a shady spook, cowboy named Negan, err, I mean Harvey Russell (Morgan) who carries a pearl-handled pistol.
[Swift aside: There’s a famous line in Patton about people who carry pearl-handled pistols. “Only a pimp from a cheap New Orleans whorehouse would carry a pearl-handled pistol.”]
Eventually Harvey ends up seeing that he needs to work with Davis and Kate to deal with the monstrous menaces now wreaking havoc across the country.
The military, not surprisingly, has decided to essentially bomb the hell out of these things, but there’s more to the story about what’s going on behind the scenes with Energyne that I will let you discover when you watch the film.
Rampage delivers on the action, but it also has enough one-liners and great buddy chemistry between Davis and George and Davis and Harvey and even Davis and Kate, to a lessor extant. So you get a really entertaining time at the movies.
The effects are better than I was expecting going into it. I was worried the final action sequence wouldn’t be big enough or long enough. Foolish me, you’d think I never saw a Rock film before!
Everything I wanted in this film I got . . . and then some. There’s enough going on in Rampage that I dare say you might want to see this one in the theater more than once.
I didn’t like everything about it, of course, there were some moments that smacked of convenient writing, you’ll know the moment when you say out loud, “How convenient.” But, this is a film about smashing and bashing, don’t expect anything substantive with regards to personal growth or social commentary. Although, I must admit there were some serious messages happening in Rampage.
But you’ll have too much fun to care about any of that for long, as you watch a giant wolf, a gargantuan ape, and a killer-sized croc tear apart Chicago while The Rock runs around shooting at shit. That, my friends, is a great time at the theater!