When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.
I must confess my expectations were low going into ‘Rampage’, through a combination of it being based on a video game and trailers that made it look like a big screen version of a trashy SyFy channel movie such as ‘Sharknado’ or the gloriously titled ‘Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus’. That’s a roundabout way of saying ‘Rampage’ is a much better movie than it has any right to be, largely because it focuses on succeeding as a film in its own right instead of faithfully recreating the video game experience. This is cinema as pure escapism and it works not only because it taps into its ridiculousness but also because it finds a heart underneath the monsters smashing buildings madness.
The film begins by introducing us to Dwayne Johnson’s Davis Okoye, a primatologist who works in a San Diego nature reserve with a group of gorillas, including a cheeky chap called George. When a rogue experiment turns George and a couple of other animals into gigantic, raging monsters, it’s up to Davis, alongside a genetic engineer (Naomie Harris) and a government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to put a stop to the chaos. Johnson’s movie star charisma has long since been established and he’s a large part of why I enjoyed ‘Rampage’, with his grounded and likeable performance helping to take us through some of the shakier exposition and Harris is reliably good as the main support. The film does have a tonal issue with the performances, with Johnson and Harris playing the material straight on one hand and Morgan, Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy completely hamming it up on the other. Akerman and Lacy don’t quite work as the villainous corporate bosses, partly down to performance and partly down to writing, but I did enjoy Morgan’s over the top turn.
The film is well paced and is pretty well made for what it is from ‘San Andreas’ director Brad Peyton (a film I enjoyed more than most people seemed too), and I felt the effects were pretty good for what is essentially a big budget B-movie. I think it’s biggest success is that it made me care for the characters, including making me feel for a giant monster gorilla that spends most of the film killing people, which is no mean feat! (or maybe I just like gorillas!). ‘Rampage’ isn’t the most original film in the world (‘Godzilla’ looms heavy on the horizon), but it’s solidly made with decent performances from Johnson, Harris and Morgan and as far as mindless entertainment goes, I had a really good time watching it.
Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P. J. Byrne, Demetrius Grosse, Jack Quaid, Breanne Hill and Jason Liles