Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rampage (2018)

Davis Okoye (The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock) works as a primatologist for a wildlife haven in San Diego. His best buddy is CGI albino gorilla George, with whom he has a relationship apparently based on bro jokes in sign language. Davis, you understand, was a bad-ass murderer in various wars and doesn’t trust non-gorillas anymore on account of people being crappy.

The whole man/gorilla love fest ends rather quickly, when the remains of an evil genetic manipulation experiment made by an evil corporation headed by a sleep walking Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy (clearly freshly escaped from a Saturday morning cartoon), crash down, and infect George and a couple other animals elsewhere. Poor George starts to grow rapidly, becoming uncommonly aggressive, and very, very hungry.

Davis’s attempts at containment quickly break down, despite the help of rogue geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), for no zoo is equipped to handle giant, mutating gorillas.. As you might have guessed, Kate once worked for the bad guys until she realized their evil craziness and went to jail for attempts at mitigating it.

The government in form of one Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the last cowboy on duty, gets involved, too, but the film gods have decreed that George, a giant wolf with some special improvements and a surprise monster will eventually go on the titular rampage.

If you’re looking for a pleasant 110 minutes of fun high budget, low brain cell entertainment, Brad Peyton’s videogame adaptation Rampage should have you covered rather nicely. Sure, the film’s science is complete nonsense, the plan of its bad guys makes little sense, the plot isn’t exactly sensible, and The Rock is playing a scientist. However, unless one is a certain type of mainstream critic, these are not things one should hold against the film lest one review a rollercoaster ride as an adaptation of “King Lear”.

As a rollercoaster ride, the Rampage has quite a bit going for it: the action is fast, pretty furious and never anything but very good fun, everything culminating not only in the promised rampage but also a perfectly entertaining giant monster tussle between George (after a classic face turn), his little buddy The Rock and the pleasantly crazy other two former animals. The annals of kaiju cinema are certainly not in need to be rewritten, but the whole thing is so unpretentious I am most certainly okay with that. While I don’t believe he’s a scientist for a second, our old buddy The Rock is always fun to watch in this sort of thing, throwing his considerable body mass around, looking likeable, and going through the quieter phases with more than enough basic acting chops to stand up to the pleasant professionalism of Harris as well as the wildly entertaining scenery chewing by cowboy imitation of Morgan. This is certainly not one of those big loud blockbuster movies whose competent actors seem embarrassed and reticent but rather one where they are involved to be fun inside of a fun film.

The only exception, and the film’s biggest weakness, are its human bad guys: Akerman seems to sleepwalk through her role, while Lacy is just inappropriately goofy. Consequently, this is a film where popping in with the villains for a scene instead of spending it with The Rock, Harris, Morgan and the CGI monsters feels a bit like having to eat one’s vegetables during a feast of luscious cheesecake.

Fortunately, we don’t spend too much time in their company, and get more than enough of the adventures of our heroic trio and the rampaging CGI for Rampage to stay a pretty satisfying chunk of lovely dumb fun.

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