Sunday 22 April 2018

Cinema: Rampage - just a CGI monster-delivery device

Cert: 12A. Now showing

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Naomie Harris bid to save humanity in 'Rampage'
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Naomie Harris bid to save humanity in 'Rampage'

Between his earthquake disaster film San Andreas (2015) and this city-levelling creature feature, it's starting to look as if precocious Canadian director Brad Peyton is applying for the job last held by Roland Emmerich, namely that of omniplex catastrophe merchant.

Peyton has some way to go, however, before the throne is his because while Rampage has all its bangs and kapows in the right place, it neglects its duties towards good characterisation and human temperatures.

When the most relatable character in a film is a CGI motion-capture gorilla, you know something is wrong.

That gorilla is George, a prodigal albino ape who communicates via sign language with his friend, the primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson).

A chemical mutagen developed by shady corporate siblings (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) has accidentally been unleashed and gone and infected not only George but also a wolf and a crocodile. What does the mutagen do? Well, it makes them big and nasty and hell-bent on wrecking things.

Armed with little more than a stained T-shirt and a jutting chin, Davis sets out to find George an antidote and save humanity. By his side and equally immune to the total structural devastation falling all about them is Naomie Harris's plucky scientist.

It all begins quite effectively, with a dour sci-fi horror prologue and some canny establishing of the bond between George and Davis. But Rampage - based on an arcade game - quickly resorts to raiding the Godzilla/King Kong cupboard and serves up a litany of tropes and well-trodden cliches as it sends the three monsters on a collision course. In between the dust-ups, the dialogue, performances and plot markers are all rather rickety.

Ultimately, this is just a CGI monster- delivery device. These leviathans are excellently rendered and undeniably fun to watch on the warpath, but the hum-drum ambling at human level lets the side down. Something of a missed opportunity. ★★ Hilary A White

Western

Club Cert: Now showing IFI

Writer/director Valeska Grisebach's version of the western is an interesting look at a modern European scenario of culture clash and invasion, west meets east, wealth meets poverty when a group of German workmen head to remote Bulgaria to build a hydro system.

They set up camp, even planting a flag but work stops because they can't get materials. It's hot, you can almost smell the bored, sweaty men smoking and drinking their wasted time away, isolated from, but aware of, the suspicious locals.

One German, Meinhard (first timer Meinhard Neumann), a kind of craggy-faced John Wayne character chooses to spend his time meeting the locals whose memory of invading Germans is not fond.

But he makes friends with the de facto village chief Adrian (Syuleyman Alilov Letifov) despite the language barrier and in so doing changes the dynamic in his own camp under petulant foreman Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek). None of the obvious story turns are taken which makes it interesting. It's too long but confident and interesting, albeit niche market.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

Custody

Cert 15A; Now showing

Denis Menochet is like a French James Gandolfini and that mix of menace and charm makes him absolutely perfect to play Antoine in Custody (Jusqu'a la Garde).

A continuation of Xavier Legrand's Oscar nominated short Just Before Losing Everything, the same cast plays the same family in the next stage of the marriage's demise.

But although Custody follows directly on from the first film there is no need to have seen that to appreciate this award-winning stand alone feature about domestic abuse.

The film opens in a custody hearing where Miriam (Lea Drucker) hopes that the system will protect her from Antoine, the husband she has fled.

But while their almost 18-year-old daughter Josephine (Mathilde Auneveux) is deemed old enough to make the decision not to see her father, the judge overrules 11-year-old Julien's request to do the same and Antoine is awarded weekend access.

The boy (played wonderfully by Thomas Gioria) tries everything to avoid his father but the law is against him, leaving the boy at the mercy of his manipulative father, and although Julien's desire to protect his mother is strong, it is no match for the sheer imbalance in power between adult and child.

Devoid of music, or overtly emotional scenes, the power of dialogue and acting makes it atmospheric and oppressive.

It's not a unique story but it is very well told and quintessentially modern European in style. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Truth or Dare

Cert 15A; Now showing

Every Friday 13th brings a horror film and this time around it's Truth or Dare, young adults who pay for their spring break over-indulgence with a Mexican demon.

The film hits a lot of the genre standards but is in no way tongue-in- cheek and is not that scary, even by my lily-livered standards.

A weird guy slightly inexplicably persuades a group of friends to accompany him to a ruin and play truth or dare. It's not until they get back to the US that horrible after-effects happen, the game continues and failure to comply does not turn out well. Olivia (Lucy Hale) and her diminishing group of friends have to find a way to stop it.

Intended as a kind of horror thriller it doesn't really evoke much emotion and it takes itself rather seriously which just feels silly. ★★ Aine O'Connor

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