Thursday 17 January 2019

Rampage movie review: The Rock's all-action mega beast movie is very silly, but lots of fun


Simply the beast: Dwayne Johnson repels a gator raid, a big bad wolf and a gorilla in Chicago. Photo: Warner Bros
Simply the beast: Dwayne Johnson repels a gator raid, a big bad wolf and a gorilla in Chicago. Photo: Warner Bros
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

When Dwayne Johnson began his film acting career way back in 2001, with The Mummy Returns, he seemed stiff and dead-eyed, which wasn't entirely down to the fact he was playing a recently resuscitated 3,000-year-old Egyptian.

He was large, imposing and pumped up like the Michelin man, but could not act, and seemed like yet another wrestler whose ill-advised bid for movie stardom would end in failure. What the man they used to call The Rock could not communicate in that largely dialogue-free performance, however, was his charm. Turns out he has buckets of the stuff, is impossible to dislike, and in recent years has doggedly carved out a very successful film career.

While unlikely ever to be mistaken for Laurence Olivier, Johnson has improved his performing to the extent that he can easily hold his own with such blockbuster heavyweights as Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Mark Wahlberg.

Comedy comes naturally to him, and that and his intimidating physical presence make him the perfect action hero for our times, the go-to guy when it comes to fronting up such nonsense as this. Rampage is silly, no question, daft as a brush, risible above and beyond the call of duty. The thing is, it knows this and director Brad Peyton and his cast never make the mistake of taking anything that happens too seriously. Which is just as well, because the word preposterous isn't quite adequate to describe what transpires here.

After an explosion aboard an orbiting satellite, three capsules crash to Earth containing samples of a very nasty genetic serum. This livid green soup has catastrophic effects when ingested by living organisms and as bad luck would have it, the capsules all land in just about the worst possible place. In Wyoming, a grey wolf turns into a 50ft marauding maniac after sucking up the concoction, an Everglades gator is similarly and horribly transformed, and the third vial thuds into the undergrowth at San Diego Zoo's gorilla enclosure.

There, primatologist, anti-poaching warrior and all-round good guy Davis Okoye (Johnson) has been tending to a band of gorillas led by a remarkable silverback called George. Davis rescued George from poachers when he was an infant and the pair have developed a very special bond. But sadly, it's he who discovers the crashed container, and by the following morning has doubled in size and attacked and killed the zoo's grizzly bear. While Davis attempts to talk down the gun-toting authorities, George escapes and crashes north across country, teaming up with the giant wolf, who would surely be a natural enemy.

Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris

Why? A passing scientist called Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) may have the answer. She used to work for a company called the Wyden Corporation and helped develop the serum, which was originally intended to fight disease. But behind her back the company's owners, Clare and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy), weaponised the serum. Now they're using a radio signal beamed from the top of Sears Tower in Chicago to draw the creatures - and their valuable DNA - to them.

What? Indeed - examine the finer points of Rampage's plot for more than a few seconds and you're liable to become dizzy, even nauseous. It's based on a video game, which ought to tell you all you need to know in terms of plausibility and logic, but by warmly embracing its quintessential stupidity, Rampage sort of gets away with it.

It's cheerfully ridiculous, Johnson looks right at home in a landscape stalked by marauding mutant monsters, and Harris is a good enough actress to make her thinly written character seem almost real.

One takes this kind of Cgi for granted these days, but the creatures really are impressively rendered and let's be honest, who doesn't want to watch a gorilla, an alligator and a wolf destroy downtown Chicago?

Rampage (12A, 107mins) - 3 stars

Films coming soon...

The Cured (Ellen Page, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor): Let the Sunshine In (Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu); The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay); Marlina the Murderer In Four Acts (Marsha Timothy)

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