So, we got two decent video game movies already this year? 2018’s really shaping up to be a good year for cinema.
The summer blockbusters keep coming earlier and earlier with “Rampage,” the latest star vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a surprisingly well-structured film for a story with giant, horned mutated crocodiles and gorillas making sex jokes and flipping the bird — which is alone is close to being worth the price of admission.
We start out with, of course, the People’s Champ, Johnson, as Davis Okoye, and the People’s Primate, George. Okoye, having nurtured and trained the albino gorilla since he was a baby and rescued it from poachers, has formed a special bond with George, who has become the leader of the pack in his gorilla enclosure in a San Diego wildlife enclosure. All is not as it seems when a mysterious canister falls to Earth — as well as two other canisters in what can be called a very convincing “Alien” homage of an opening sequence — and right into the enclosure.
Unfortunately for George, it’s an experimental and highly dangerous pathogen that exponentially increases his strength, muscle density, durability and — most importantly — rage. With George scared and unsure of his own ability, Okoye tries his best to calm down his friend with the government comes a-knockin’. Now in captivity, Okoye learns that the pathogen was created by jilted former scientist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) for the shady biotech mogul, Energyne. This is run by the devious Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy), and, try as she may have to destroy the formula while she worked for them, the sibling businessmen have used the pathogen to get rich and (presumably) destroy the world.
As Okoye and Caldwell team up with Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a rogue-ish devil-may-care special agent who believes in their cause to help George and stop Energyne — they discover the two other beats created by the pathogen (a winged wolf and a crocodile with an armadillo tail) and George are well on their way to Chicago, and rush to find a way to get George back to normal, stop the Wyden siblings and save the city.
Now, that’s a fairly convoluted story for a movie based a game where you destroy a city block with freakishly large members of the animal kingdom. However, everything seems to flow pretty well, and it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into this world. By the time the final, explosive fight scene comes, it feels like an apropos crescendo to the whole thing, with fists, fangs and bullets flying.
The cast is pretty likable, too, as one can expect from a movie with Johnson smiling at center stage. Johnson is a great lead as always and has some great one-liners. His banter with George is a good study in character building and is entertaining to watch them sign. The CGI on George is very expressive as well and it makes him feel like an authentic character. And I would be remiss to not mention Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s scene-stealing performance as Russell. You either want to punch him in the face or give him a pat on the back and buy him a beer. He chews so much scenery that he should have diabetes by the time the credits roll.
Overall, “Rampage” offers its audience exactly what it wants: cheesy dialogue with heart, big-budget action scenes, smiley good guys and loathe-able bad guys who you know are going to get their just desserts (you don’t even need a spoiler, you can tell that’s what happens).
Is the plot predictable? Yeah. Is it still entertaining? Is a gorilla pitching a piece of a building like baseball bat entertaining to you? If you nodded, this is something I can recommend to you. It even offers a little more than your standard action movie to give it that extra hint of heart and soul and gives you a great experience. It’s not going to be a front-runner for the Oscars but it gets a big ol’ gorilla-sized thumbs up.
Photo courtesy Associated Press