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November 2018


Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: New Line Cinema
Release Date: April 13, 2018


Movie Review - 'Rampage'

by Adam Pavlacka on April 13, 2018 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.

Rampage isn't the first video game property that comes to mind when you think of an in-depth story, so it was a bit surprising when the film was first announced. Yes, the original game is an arcade classic, but it's not exactly a common property. The game's most recent re-release was as an unlockable in LEGO Dimensions, which is the best way to play it on current consoles. How does a 32-year-old arcade game translate to an action film? Surprisingly well.

As a game-to-film property, "Rampage" works because the script uses the game as inspiration, rather than as the basis for its story beats. One of the biggest stumbling blocks that faced "Tomb Raider" was the movie's attempt to duplicate specific beats from the recent games. Now, it's not like there was much plot behind Rampage to begin with, but even the basic idea of humans mutating was dropped. This time around, all of the monsters started out as animals and were mutated by a corporate experiment gone awry.

The stars of the film are Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the San Diego wildlife sanctuary, and Jason Liles, who performed the motion capture for George, an albino gorilla who was raised by Okoye. It is the friendship between the two that drives the overall plot of the film, and it is that same friendship that makes the whole thing work.

Johnson does a great job delivering his trademark deadpan humor. If that's not your thing, then "Rampage" won't be as much of a draw, but if you enjoy watching The Rock be The Rock, "Rampage" will be right up your alley. What's different here is that when it comes to the climatic fight scenes, Johnson is upstaged by Liles in pretty much every way. It's a role reversal that isn't typical, Johnson being the one needing rescuing, but he sells it.

Where "Rampage" stumbles is in the performance of its supporting cast. Unlike the two leads, the quality of the supporting cast varies across the length of the film. Okoye's team in San Diego is solid, but we never see them after the first act. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a government agent of unknown allegiance who may or may not be a friend, but I couldn't get past his atrociously bad and poorly faked Southern accent. The worst offender, though, was Jake Lacy, who played the villain as comically inept, as though he were cast in a comedy, rather than an action film.

Thankfully, the human cast ends up taking second billing to the monsters, since that's what everyone is coming to see. And see them you do.

Many blockbusters try to hide the monster ("Godzilla"), or they show combat as a quick-cut, blurry mess (every Transformers film). Not so here. "Rampage" revels in its combat and destruction, offering up plenty of money shots of all four monsters. Yes, all four.

Like I noted earlier, "Rampage" may not be directly based on the game, but it certainly pulls inspiration from the games. The three core monsters from the arcade are here, as well as the rat monster, which was a special addition to the Atari Lynx port of the game.

"Rampage" was also filmed on location in Chicago (the arcade original had the monsters rampaging through the Chicago suburbs), with plenty of time spent on landmarks. When the destruction happens, it's not some no-name facade on a set. Anyone who has visited the Windy City will recognize the core of downtown. Eagle-eyed viewers will also note the appearance of Rampage and Mortal Kombat arcade cabinets at a key location in the film. It's a nice nod to the history of the game without going overboard.

The game is also why the majority of military vehicles shown in the film are helicopters and armored trucks. That's what you fought against in the game, so why not make them prominent features here?

Walking into "Rampage," I wasn't expecting much. After all, video game films don't have the best of track records, but the movie surprised me. It has more heart than you'd expect, the action is solid, and the Kid Cudi track that samples the Smashing Pumpkins is on point. If you're looking for something to watch as you count down the days to "Infinity War," "Rampage" is a solid choice.

Score: 7.5/10

"Rampage" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hours and 47 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX.

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