2018, PG-13, 107 min. Directed by Brad Peyton. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jason Liles, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P.J. Byrne, Demetrius Grosse, Jack Quaid, Breanne Hill, Matt Gerald, Will Yun Lee, Urijah Faber, Bruce Blackshear.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., April 13, 2018
Remember when PG-13 meant something, and it wasn't just a watered-down R? When teens were guaranteed some swearing and some really fun, bloody destruction? Welcome to Rampage, the weirdest, goriest, most city-wrecking, unlikely passion project in years.
Just to nix any rumors, Rampage doesn't break the seemingly perfect losing streak of video game to movie adaptation, but only because this year's wafer-thin but highly entertaining Tomb Raider did that already. Instead, it's the world's biggest box office attraction, Dwayne "the artist formerly known as the Rock" Johnson, in an all-action revamp of the endlessly beloved classic arcade game, in which the player gets to be one of three monsters wrecking a city. No, he doesn't get to be a beast; instead, he's primatologist Davis Okoye (if that seems like an unlikely career for the great one, then a: boo on you for leaping to conclusions just because of his physique and b: there's a really smart and tear-jerky explanation for his career path). He's best friend to albino gorilla George (Liles, proving that Andy Serkis doesn't have the market cornered on motion capture leading apes). All until a mysterious canister releases a strange gas and turns George into a massive, rage-filled machine of destruction. Plus, in keeping with the game, there is also a giant mutated wolf, and a humongous tusked crocodile, all headed for Chicago on a (checks title) rampage.
This crazy-gleeful adventure jumps between grisly and cartoonish, because Peyton (who previously directed the equally ludicrous Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas with Johnson) gets that the game was grisly and cartoonish. How else would you describe playing a massive monster that got to smash buildings and eat people?
Basically, he’s made a modern American version of classic Seventies and Eighties Kaiju (in knowing nods, megacroc Lizzie even has definite hints of Godzilla’s fellow beasts Anguirus and Biollante in the design). There is just enough of a plot to place the real blame on humans, with Akerman and Lacy chewing more scenery than Ralph the flying wolf as evil corporate overlords. It’s loud, raucous fun, mostly sold by Johnson, the undisputed champion of CGI smash-fests. Sadly, even he cannot breathe energy into the meet-cute relationship with Harris’ dissident scientist. However, real sparks fly whenever he’s onscreen with Dean Morgan, yee-hawing it up as a government agent with a molasses-thick Texas accent. If Johnson ever gets his other long-gestating game adaptation Spy Hunter off the ground, cast these men!
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Rampage, Brad Peyton, Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jason Liles, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P.J. Byrne, Demetrius Grosse, Jack Quaid, Breanne Hill, Matt Gerald, Will Yun Lee, Urijah Faber, Bruce Blackshear