A movie where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fights alongside a 50-foot gorilla to combat a giant flying wolf and mutated crocodile should be fun. So why isn’t this fun?
“Rampage” is (incredibly loosely) based on the arcade video game of the same name, and stars Johnson as a primatologist who must team up with an albino gorilla he has raised since birth in order to stop a two monsters after all three creatures are exposed to a classified government toxin. Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello and Jeffrey Dean Morgan also star as Brad Peyton directs.
I am a fan of Johnson and his million-dollar smile, even in his lesser projects like the awful “Baywatch” and Peyton and his 2015 team-up, “San Andreas.” While that was a film full of disasters, “Rampage” is a disaster of a film, with an awful script and cringe-inducing performances as well as a shocking lack of monster fights.
Most of the time when watching a movie, your mind gives no extra thought to the screenplay; characters are just saying things and events are just happening and you pay no mind to the writer. When a script is good, however, you recognize it. The likes of “The Social Network” or “Manchester by the Sea” have fantastic interactions between fleshed out characters and don’t rely on exposition scenes to get by. When a film is poorly written you also recognize it, and oh boy is this film poorly written.
Penned by four different individuals — typically a red flag — this film has so many swing-and-miss attempts at humor, like a character looking at the Rock and saying “girls love him … I should shave my head”; forced plot progression, because the “show don’t tell” rule is apparently nonexistent in this world; and sluggish pacing that, despite this being a mindless action film, all they managed to get right was the “mindless” part.
The only two actors who come out of this thing somewhat unscathed are Johnson and Morgan. Johnson smiles his way through and has his charm, so he is able to skate by enough, and Morgan is doing some hammy cowboy turn that chews up scenery. They’re both fine enough.
Everyone else ranges from “oh honey, you’re better than this” to “dear God, why?” Oscar nominee Harris is given little to do besides be the woman presence and act as the brains, even though she never is the one coming up with the plans. The typically charming Lacy tries his hand at a villain role, and just seems out of place and lost. Then there’s Akerman, who is so cringe-inducingly awful that she would seem bad by early-2000s children’s bad guy standards; her delivery is awful and her evil plan is stupid.
And I know that a movie based on monsters destroying cities shouldn’t be judged off its brains, but the fact is the titular rampage fight doesn’t start until the final 30 minutes of the film. For the first few minutes it’s entertaining watching a giant croc thrash through downtown Chicago and toss army tanks around like rag dolls, but then it gets tedious and refuses to end. The effects are mostly fine, with occasional appearing inspired and others looking laughable.
“Rampage” is probably the worst film of The Rock’s career, which is saying something since his filmography includes “Baywatch” and “The Scorpion King.” It is lazy, it’s not funny and none of the attempts at emotion and drama work; fans of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films will love it.
Critic’s grade: D+.