11th April (UK) 13th April (US)
Primatologist Davis Okoye shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent gorilla who has been in his care since birth. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry transforms this gentle ape into a raging monster.
Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Will Yun Lee
Dwayne Johnson deals with the mother of all orangu-tantrums in Rampage, a satisfying monster movie which boasts some incredible effects and even harder-to-believe career paths for Johnson’s characters.
Loosely based on the 1986 arcade game of the same name, Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist (or ‘man who studies Primates’) who befriends and takes care of an albino gorilla named George. When George is inadvertently exposed to a rogue genetic experiment, it brings about changes in him which turn him from a docile ape into a rage-filled, oversized monster. But he’s not the only animal to have come into contact with the mysterious gas: a wolf and a crocodile have also been affected by these radical changes and the trio are on an unstoppable path of destruction as they head towards Chicago.
It’s been an agonizingly long four months since Johnson was on our screens in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle but thankfully the extended Dwayne drought has come to an end. Dressed in a khaki green shirt that is far too small for his bulging biceps (but let’s face it, every shirt is too small for those guns), he looks like he alternated his hours in the day by filming Jumanji and Rampage at the same time. Neither role demands more from him than simply showing off said muscle, occasionally giving an intense glare into the distance and popping off the odd one-liner – all moves he’s perfected in his 20 years as an actor. The fact we’re expected to believe he’s a primatologist is laughable enough, but of course he also has a military background and extensive hand-to-hand combat training. His vocation as a helicopter pilot from San Andreas comes in handy, too.
Cast support comes from Naomi Harris as Dr. Kate Caldwell, the expert with a few secrets about the project, and the excellent Jeffery Dean Morgan as Agent Harvey Russel, or the nicest bad guy of 2018. Morgan, who has made a name for himself as The Walking Dead’s nefarious baseball bat-wielding Negan, is visibly having a ton of fun in his role here, and rightly so. He knows how preposterous the whole premise is and acts accordingly – with a little bit of Negan undeniably creeping in every so often.
The human villains of Rampage are supposed to be the CEO of Energyne, the company which manufactured the pathogen, Clare Wyden (played by Malin Akerman) and her brother, Brett (Jake Lacey) but they are about as threatening as Curious George. Their role ends up being holed up in their swanky top floor office to simply oversee the action CCTV and drone footage while unconvincingly telling each other and ultimately the audience what has happened, what’s about to happen and what eventually will happen if that is successful. They’re basically nothing more than exposition explainers and if the film was to be without them it would have been all the better for it.
Fortunately, we’ve got three gargantuan monsters to help us forget the utterly useless antagonists. The CGI on these beasts is sublime and their unstoppable destruction pushes the boundaries of a 12A (or PG-13 for our American friends) rating, with one scene even showing soldiers cut in half, innards and all. It takes a little too much time to get to the climactic Chicago showdown between Johnson and the three rampaging animals though, with only brief displays of damage and an admittedly suspenseful plane crash on show until the final act. The payoff is worth the wait however, with high rise buildings toppling like dominoes, flying wolves soaring through the sky and the massive mutated crocodile causing complete carnage in Chicago being a real highlight of the film.
Between Rampage and Pacific Rim: Uprising, the last month has been full of downtown decimation, with Pacific Rim: Uprising just about edges out this one in terms of overall entertainment for me. Nevertheless, both Johnson and Morgan know how outlandish the whole thing is and as a result keep the tone light and comedic. While there may be more holes in this plot and logic than there are in the buildings after George is done with them, there’s no denying Rampage is a destructively good time.
Fantastic CGI and creature design
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dwayne Johnson carry the weight of the film with charisma
Chicago destruction takes its time to arrive but is worth the wait
A surprising amount of heart in the relationship between George and Davis
Awful, useless and horribly miscast human villains