FILM REVIEW – RAMPAGE. With Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Joe Manganiello. Written by Ryan Engle and Carlton Cuse & Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel. Directed by Brad Peyton. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures. 107 minutes.
RAMPAGE is a film we’ve seen before, yet it works thanks to top-notch special effects and the way Dwayne Johnson is able to engage us on screen. If you can put yourself in the mindset of a twelve-year-old cheering the good monsters versus the bad monsters, you’ll have a great time.
The premise is that an evil corporation has been conducting genetic experiments in space, and when things go wrong, the results end up back on Earth, causing animals exposed to a pathogen to turn into vicious, gigantic, and invulnerable monsters. One of them is George, an albino gorilla under the care of Davis (Johnson), who grows enormously and becomes increasingly aggressive.
The government is, naturally, concerned, especially when it learns that George is joined by a wolf and an alligator, and all of them are converging on Chicago. Davis has the help of Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who had worked with the bad guys, and a mysterious government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who may or may not have their best interests at heart. It comes down to a massive showdown in Chicago, with lots of destruction and a plot twist or two.
Much of the film is preposterous. David survives not one, but two crashes. The scientific breakthrough that sets the story in motion seems more of a plot device than something with the slightest connection to reality, especially when we learn that that among the DNA “editing” that has taken place is something that allows wolves to fly. The massive destruction that we see taking place in Chicago is something we’ve come to expect at the movies but would be catastrophic if it occurred in reality.
In spite of all that, if you’re able to just go with the flow, it’s an exciting adventure as the good guys search for the antidote for George and fight both the bad guys and the bad monsters. While the effects are impressive, a lot of the credit has to go to Johnson who has utterly transcended his background in professional wrestling and turned into a credible actor. No one will confuse him with Laurence Olivier or Meryl Streep, but within his range, he deftly handles both comic and dramatic roles, while successfully getting viewers on his side.
“Rampage” is what used to be called Saturday matinee material, as its target audience is clearly tweens and young teens. Whatever your age, if you have fun with movies where giant monsters are wreaking havoc, you’ll have a blast.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.