Film review: ‘RAMPAGE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Like many of the nerd persuasion I would stay up to ungodly hours as a kid to watch a zero-budgeted Japanese movie in which Kong fought a giant cockroach. It’s in this fine cinematic tradition that we now have films like Rampage, ludicrous guilty pleasure monster fests but with a bigger budget than the old Kaiju films and CGI replacing the man in the ape suit.

Adapting the 80’s arcade game Rampage, this extremely silly but occasionally enjoyable beast-feast relies on the hoary old premise of mysterious gloop from outer space turning normally imposing creatures into giant, ravenous mutant monsters hell-bent on destroying civilisation.   Here, an albino gorilla named (believe it or not) George along with a wolf and an alligator are infected with a strange pathogen that hits the earth after a spaceship disaster. Transforming into enormous, hyper-aggressive monsters reminiscent of peak hour drivers on the Monash Freeway, the trio lead a path of destruction through Chicago.

When faced with global catastrophe what the world needs is a wise-cracking muscle man and there’s none better than Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson. In Rampage, he plays primatologist Davis Okoye an ape specialist who can actually talk to gorillas a bit like a cross between Jane Goodall, Dr Doolittle and a pro-wrestler. Of course, he’s also that mandatory figure in contemporary action films, the former special forces soldier. Teaming with geneticist Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the Rock sees his oddly intimate relationship with furry friend George as the only hope if the world is to survive the creature apocalypse.

Rampage comes from the same team that brought us the lamentable disaster movie San Andreas. For the most part they’ve simply swapped an earthquake for monsters although thankfully a tighter script and winking acknowledgement of the whole concept’s inherent silliness make this a more enjoyable experience.

Most of the film involves giant creatures smashing city blocks and munching on hapless dopes who think they can take on the beasts. For those simply looking for monster destruction-fest this will probably suffice even if some of the CGI is a little dodgy with creatures still loping in slow motion the way they have for decades.

The film attempts to add some commentary about the dangers of corporate greed with Malin Akerman and Jake Lacey as sister and brother owners of the sinister company responsible for the evil pathogen. This corporate meanie scenario isn’t very well developed and is really only there to give the film a couple of dislikeable villains.

The Rock is exactly the same character he plays in every other film, a confident, perpetually grinning but likeable action hero who seems to be as indestructible as the monsters; no amount of shootings, helicopter crashes or creature attacks seem to affect him. Naomie Harris, who has distinguished herself as Miss Moneypenny in the Bond films, brings charm and intelligence to the role of Dr Caldwell. Malin Akerman is both seductive and appropriately dislikeable as femme fatale, Claire Wyden.

Audiences should know exactly what to expect from a film like Rampage, a sugar hit of cartoon violence, monster porn and the Rock’s self-aware posturing; it’s junk food cinema but it’s a lot more palatable than a Transformers film.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Sci Fi/ Action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Brad Peyton.

Release date: 13th Apr 2018.

Running time: 107 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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