We don’t give half-stars here at SN&R, so a while ago, faced with a movie that rated two-and-a-half stars, I told my editor I bumped it up to three because the movie had a good heart. Dwayne Johnson’s new vehicle Rampage is another two-and-a-half star picture, but it doesn’t get bumped because it doesn’t have a good heart. It doesn’t have a heart at all, just a spreadsheet of projected box-office returns. It’s like one of those comic-strip characters with dollar signs for eyes.
Not that it isn’t enjoyable in its mechanical way. And considering that it’s based on a videogame, it’s better than usual for that bastard genre. It’s not garbage, but that doesn’t exactly make it Jurassic Park.
Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary whose best friend is an albino gorilla named George (played via motion capture by Jason Liles, aspiring to be the next Andy Serkis).
When a sinister genetic experiment goes awry on an orbiting space station, three canisters of mutant DNA come crashing to Earth. One lands in George’s compound, infecting him with uncontrolled growth and uncontrollable rage.
We needn’t go into the plot brewed up by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel; it’s a textbook case of too many cooks with too few ideas about how to incorporate all the ridiculous points of the original game. Anyhow, it involves George and two other monsters created by the rogue DNA, a 30-foot wolf from Wyoming and an alligator from the Everglades grown into the kind of creature Godzilla used to fight. All three set off for Chicago, drawn by a homing signal from the shady corporation that funded the original experiment, where the company CEO (Malin Akerman as a female Snidely Whiplash) eagerly awaits them.
Meanwhile, our man Okoye follows George hoping to rescue him, accompanied by Naomie Harris as a scientist who once unwittingly worked on the genetic project, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a scruffy, stubble-faced G-Man who looks like he should be standing on a traffic median holding a sign that says, “Will do secret government work for food.”
All this folderol is just a way to get the monsters tearing up a big city. In Rampage it’s Chicago’s turn, and the beasts go at it with a vengeance—literally, it seems, because the corporation’s signal is driving them even madder than they already are. Soon they even turn on each other, and our hero redoubles his superhuman efforts to extricate George from his predicament. Lucky thing he used to be a special-forces soldier (but there I go, trying to explain the plot again).
I guess I should mention that Rampage is directed by Brad Peyton; it seems impolite not to, though it’s hard to say exactly what he contributed to the proceedings besides calling “Action!”, “Cut!” and “Lunch!”
Rampage qualifies as a guilty (as hell) pleasure, not bad for what it is—but what it is, of course, is exactly the problem.