RAMPAGE (USA / 12A / 107 mins)
Directed by Bray Peyton. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy.
THE PLOT: A scientific space disaster sends weaponised DNA hurtling towards the Earth. San Diego Zoo primate expert Davis (Dwayne Johnson) has formed a strong bond with albino gorilla George. However, George is infected by the DNA, which is the result of dodgy experiments by company woman Claire (Malin Akerman) and her not-as-smart brother Brett (Jake Lacy). George soon grows to a much larger size and his behaviour becomes more aggressive. He goes on a cross-country rampage to Chicago with another infected creature, a giant wolf. Davis is in hot pursuit, aided by scientist Kate (Naomie Harris) and sly Government operative Harvey (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)…
THE VERDICT: Stand aside, Lara Croft. Following just a few weeks after her disappointingly mediocre reboot, ‘Rampage’ is a videogame adaptation that bucks the trend and is actually rather good. That is, if you switch your brain off and just enjoy it for what it is – a big, dumb, fun popcorn film. It’s inspired by the 1986 Midway arcade game, which allowed you to get in touch with your inner King Kong by smashing up skyscrapers and helicopters with reckless abandon.
The screen version obviously needs something more to make it work, hence the script’s reasonably successful attempt at anchoring the story in an oversized buddy action film.
Director Brad Peyton sets up the key relationship between Davis and George straight away and this follows through right to the hilarious closing shot. Without that bond between man and gorilla, the story would be lost in a sea of smashing pixels. There’s a lot of humour between these two, but also an understanding and respect. Only Dwayne Johnson could tame something bigger than him and he does so here with his easygoing charm and strong screen presence. That said though, the film does lose focus midway through, when Davis and George become separated and the latter loses control of his rage. That sudden turn from a good guy to a bad guy is a little too quick and convenient. Still, the pay-off is worth the wait.
Deep down, this is an old-school 1950s B-movie whose DNA has been spliced with a vintage 1980s videogame and a more modern sensibility. 1950s cinema screens were awash with giant mutating creatures due to scientific experiments. The same principle applies here, only jazzed up for maximum visual impact. When George and the (flying!) wolf go on the rampage, it has the kind of jaw-dropping cityscape dream destruction that Pacific Rim and its recent sequel needed more of. How about mutated creatures surfing a falling skyscraper? You got it. To add to the atmosphere, there are paper-thin but thankfully boo-hissable corporate villains. It’s all done firmly tongue-in-cheek, to the point where it becomes hard to dislike. Switch your brain off, grab some popcorn and enjoy. ‘Rampage’ is a riot.
RATING: 3 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor