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It could have been one of those ‘so bad, it’s great’ B-movies. But pairing ‘The Rock’ with a crazed giant gorilla has merely created...
There are some films that can send your spirits plummeting just by being described, let alone seeing the trailer, and Rampage, alas, is one of them. Never mind that it stars Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – I’ve been doing this job long enough to know that the likeable wrestler-turned-actor has made some very entertaining films – but Johnson in a film that includes a super-sized gorilla, a wolf the size of a helicopter and the sort of pumped-up alligator that could leave a Tyrannosaurus Rex feeling inadequate? Nope, as someone who’s never really warmed to King Kong or Godzilla, it didn’t sound like a film for me.
Then I saw the destruction-filled trailer and knew it wasn’t.
Now, however, I’ve seen the whole thing and…? Well, the only good news I can offer is that Rampage is no worse than I expected. The visual effects so vital to this sort of thing are variable in quality and the ridiculous goingson are underpinned by a vein of comedy that is clearly meant to signal that everyone involved knows it has been made with tongue in cheek. At times it’s pretty obvious that they’ve almost set out deliberately to make a bad film; an old-fashioned B-movie, if you like.
But if that was the case, what they have failed to do is make a B-movie so wonderfully bad that, by a mysterious process of cinematic transmogrification, it becomes deliciously enjoyable. No matter how badly the supporting cast over- acts, Rampage never quite makes it over this ‘Wow, this is actually so much fun’ barrier. For most of its running time it’s just plain mediocre. At least for anyone over the age of 12. Describing the plot cannot be done without taking a very deep breath. And that’s not just so we can believe in the highly improbable character played by Johnson – Davis Okoye, a musclebound San Diego primatologist who has built up a signlanguage-based relationship with an albino gorilla called George, and who just happens to have a background in the Special Forces. Which is handy because…
Elsewhere, the sinister Energyne Corporation – run by the unscrupulous but hugely wealthy Wyden siblings (really quite badly played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) – have been experimenting with gene-editing on their privately financed space station. When that explodes (clearly not a good sign), the only things that survive re-entry are three canisters containing the gene-transforming pathogen – one of which lands in the San Diego gorilla sanctuary, a second in the forests of Wyoming (good wolf country), while the third lands in the Florida Everglades. And we know what lives there.
What does for the film is its sheer inevitability. From the moment we see the stepped silhouette of the Energyne tower, we know that George – by now growing at a rate of two feet every 24 hours – will be climbing up it, King Kong-style, pretty soon. OK, having a giant tusked alligator attempt the same could go down as a surprise but, hey, it’s just another a big reptile in a highrise city, and that’s very familiar territory for Godzilla fans.
But there’s so much other attendant silliness going on here. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s massively over-the-top performance as the mysterious Agent Russell is extraordinary. But then if you’re playing opposite The Rock, I suppose you do need to bring something pretty big. Or something just pretty, if we’re talking about Naomie Harris, who pitches up to play the inevitable sidekick, a beautiful geneticist.
For director Brad Peyton this is clearly film-making by numbers. Sadly, numbers that just don’t add up for me.
Rampage Cert: 12A ★★★★★ 1hr 47mins
From top: Dwayne Johnson and Naomie Harris; George the gorilla; Harris, Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Malin Akerman; Joe Manganiello