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‘Rampage’ is cinematic convenience food

April 21, 2018

Going out to dinner can be an exquisite evening: sitting at a well-decorated table; pre-meal conversations over a glow of candlelight and aperitifs; the thrill of a well-presented meal, served with finely crafted edible trimmings.

Then again, sometimes, you just want a greasy, prewrapped sandwich, served fast and dependable. "Rampage" is that cinematic convenience food: you enter the film with the promise of The Rock and a giant mutated gorilla making a mess of downtown Chicago, and dammit, that's exactly what it delivers...fast and faithful.

The film is based on the popular video game (Wait! I see your eyes starting to roll back in your head, but hear me out...) "Rampage," which let players take the form of one of three giant beasts that were formerly human and are attempting to elude military pursuit.

And while the core of this premise is still within the walls of the film version, we now follow hulking primatologist David Okoye (The Rock...why not?) as he attempts to help his gorilla pal George deal with the mutative effects of exposure to a canister carrying a genetic experiment.

George grows to Kong size rapidly, but also becomes very aggressive in the process. Now, the only key to reversing George's condition is in the hands of a comely doctor, Kate Caldwell (played by Naomie Harris), a genetic engineer who just happened to work in the very same lab where the DNA Miracle-Gro was concocted.

Of course, George isn't the only animal that came into contact with the serum. A wolf and an alligator were exposed to it as well and are not as well-behaved as George once was.

Naturally, there is a gaggle of governmental agents in pursuit, including the loquacious Harvey Russell (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who seems to act only through his neck muscles by cocking his head to emote). But all the humans who aren't The Rock are merely padding in "Rampage," as we are there to witness mass devastation by computer-generated beasts tearing through a major metropolitan city.

And aside from a few landmarks, "Rampage" does not really take advantage of its Windy City locale. But that does not mean there isn't plenty of skyscraper-scrapping fun to be had, even if you can't really make out the Leo Burnett Building before it crumbles.

"Rampage" is nowhere near as stylized as 2015's "Kong: Skull Island," but it never really tries to be. This film embraces its B-movie roots much the same way The Rock's earlier city-flattening collaboration with director Brad Peyton did in "San Andreas." While he continually tries to replace his WWE moniker with his more esteemed nom de guerre, Dwayne Johnson, he is never not The Rock here (which isn't a bad thing). He spouts zippy one-liners, further demonstrates his knack for comedic timing beneath his mass of muscle and, at 46, still looks sculpted from stone.

"Rampage" will never hover near the top of the actor's resume (which looks like it will triple in the next couple years, with no fewer than two more films in 2018 and five more in the works). But it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do in terms of big-screen entertainment, and does so with a wink and a sly smile. And sometimes, that is all the cinematic nourishment we need.

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.