It’s certainly no exaggeration to call Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson one of the hardest working stars in Hollywood, but also the most consistent box office winner in the business too at the moment. With his latest big budget offering, Rampage, The Rock returns to the generally dreaded movie sub-genre, the adaptation of a video game. After his previous failed attempt to do so with 2005’s Doom, you have to admire his fortitude, with the star himself recently admitting that he was, quite rightly, unhappy with that particular foray into the genre.
A lot has changed since then for Mr Johnson, and whilst one may get the impression that he was willing to try anything back in those days to make the leap from professional wrestling into movies, he’s now in the more enviable position of being able to pick and choose his projects.
Reunited with director Brad Peyton after their previous team up on 2015’s earthquake disaster flick San Andreas, where he flew around in a helicopter saving people from collapsing buildings, Johnson returns to save even more people from collapsing buildings, but this time with the threat coming from a trio of giant mutated beasts, namely a huge killer crocodile and a flying wolf. The third member of this triple threat lineup is George, an albino gorilla, who prior to becoming exposed to a dangerous genetic altering agent, was in the care of Johnson’s zoologist, Davis Okoye at a San Diego wildlife park. When we first meet Davis he’s shown as a solitary and isolated man who openly admits that he relates better to animals than to humans and when George is initially found to be suffering the early effects of the agent, Davis will stop at nothing to try and help his friend.
Teamed up with Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a former employee of the company responsible for the rogue experiment and now a discredited genetic engineer as a result, Davis must take control of the situation before his best friend George is either killed or helps destroy the city of Chicago. Luckily we learn that Davis has an extensive military background which comes in handy as he will need to call on said skills in a race against the clock as the military plan on dropping a nuke on the city to nullify the threat of these giant animals once and for all.
With such a wildly outlandish premise, Rampage could easily have fallen into the trap of being a total disaster of the wrong kind, yet somehow Peyton and Johnson have managed to stop this from happening once again. As with their previous effort, Rampage delivers another solid and perfectly enjoyable popcorn action movie. Whilst it’s safe to say that the awards panels won’t be considering this for anything in next year’s ceremonies, Rampage provides a solid offering of entertainment and destructive mayhem, whilst walking the fine line between taking itself too seriously or falling into parody.
Johnson is, unsurprisingly, the main driving force behind Rampage’s success with his obvious on-screen charisma but he’s surrounded by a more than able cast, including the aforementioned Harris and Jeffery Dean Morgan, whose take on the Southern Fried FBI agent Harvey Russell, somehow manages to be less obvious than his supposedly straighter role of Negan in The Walking Dead, whilst still effectively displaying the requisite grandstanding traits seen previously on the TV drama or in his other film roles such as The Comedian in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. Also joining the cast is Dean’s fellow Watchmen alumni Malin Akerman as the film’s main villain Claire Wyden, co-owner of gene manipulation company Energyne, whose domination of both her brother/business partner and the situation in general comes across with a suitably cartoonish degree of sneering evil.
After the tremendous success of last year’s Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, which fared unexpectedly well against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson’s films are almost guaranteed to pull in some big business at the box office and it’s easy to see why as yet again we find The Brahma Bull providing action and thrills aplenty, whilst remaining geared solidly towards a family friendly audience. In truth, Rampage may not be as laugh-out-loud funny as his previous film, but most of the jokes manage to hit their mark and Peyton has once again displayed a definite flair for large-scale disaster based set-pieces that put the likes of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies to shame. As long as you go in with suitably adjusted expectations then this adaptation of a slightly obscure, but nonetheless fondly remembered ‘80s arcade game is surprisingly far more entertaining than it has any reasonable right to be.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 7/10
Rampage is on general release in the U.K. and U.S. now.