Rampage (2018)

“Prepare to engage.”

Like an empty-headed romp of 90’s era ridiculousness decked out by modern day’s supreme CGI graphics, Rampage is both a lavish and contemporary throwback to a time where logic consistently played second-fiddle to impulsive action. In that regard, the film delivers on its promises of mass destruction and weaponized stupidity with a haphazard sense of thoughtfulness, creating a spectacle that’s both brimming with indulgences and devoid of any real personality. Rampage might feel like a game of bumper cars, and that’s because despite the many collisions, none of its truly resonates. You get what you pay for and nothing more.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as the muscly misanthrope Davis Okoye, a primatologist whose closest relationship is with the albino gorilla George he saved as an orphan in the wild. Nowadays, Davis and George are friends in life and brothers in spirit, speaking through sign language and showing real camaraderie. Rampage only works – albeit briefly and all too rarely – because of Johnson’s brawny appeal, and in this case, the balance of his machismo versus his occasional vulnerability. So although The Rock capably sells Rampage with his trademarked and charismatic enthusiasm, the movie itself is a bundle of creatively coddled chaos.

While the build-up to the classic kaiju-inspired monster madness in the movie’s third act delivers the action audiences paid for – who doesn’t want to see genetically modified beasts destroy the most touristy streets of downtown Chicago? – Rampage still refuses to confront or consider its humanity. Bodies are thrown, smashed, stomped. Carcasses are glimpsed. It’s a bloody massacre mislabeled as PG-13 instead of R by the notoriously ill-advised MPAA. Yet with the antagonistic sibling duo of the doofus Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) and his inscrutable sister Claire (Malin Akerman), as well as the meaningless Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and the government cowboy Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, thriving with this extreme and embellished caricature), director Brad Peyton seems bound by Johnson’s lavish dressing room request list. I don’t think another actor could have played his role; I do, however, think that more humility and less ego on part of its larger-than-life star would’ve given the Rampage a method to its madness. He’s beginning to sell himself as the whole package rather than crafting a product worth selling through his persona, and there’s a huge difference between the two.

By showing plenty of “who and what” and hiding all of the “how or why,” Rampage happily tosses its brain into the story’s quickly crumbling sense of plot or purpose. Granted, it is senseless fun to see a behemoth of a man fist bump a giant gorilla, to kick a massive crocodile in the teeth, and to stand his ground against a flying 30+ foot wolf. This is fiction after all. And if that’s what you sign up for, I have a feeling Rampage will live up to your most basic needs. My problem with the picture lies with recognizing Johnson’s willingness to undervalue his charm. People will see Rampage once because it’s all filler, meanwhile, there are discernible and calculable reasons that the Jumanji reboot became one of Sony’s biggest 21st Century hits: it’s relatable and personal. His best movies and his best work are in fully developed stories which allow others characters to live a little bit on the screen. At this point though, it’s becoming hard to watch such an indelible performer go for broke in such utterly forgettable movies.

“I can’t believe we survived that.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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