by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday April 11, 2018


It's genuinely hard to dislike Dwayne Johnson. As an action star, he pushes the limits. As an on-screen personality, he's affable as hell. In his real-life disposition, Johnson gives the impression of being a big lug with a heart of gold. He's also one of the hardest working professionals in Hollywood. Last year alone, he headlined a major action franchise film ("The Fate of the Furious"), a mainstream studio comedy reboot ("Baywatch") and a blockbuster holiday film ("Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle"). We're less than halfway into 2018 and Johnson is back again, this time in the ridiculously fun "Rampage," a film that finds the action star battling giant, genetically modified animals destroying Chicago.

That's really it. You know exactly what you're getting into with "Rampage," and the movie constantly delivers on those expectations. Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, who shares a particularly strong bond with an intelligent white gorilla named George. Their kinship is immediately established with sign language jokes and raunchy gestures, plus a clear affection that Johnson communicates well, considering he was dealing with a CGI creation. This gentle relationship between man and beast gives the film an extra layer of poignant cheese once the plot kicks into high gear and George finds himself infected by a mysterious container that plummeted into his gorilla pit from space.

The vessel, filled with a genetically-modifying substance that is banned due to its "weapon of mass destruction" classification, causes George to exponentially grow in both size and aggression. Davis, of course, refuses to give up on his buddy (take a drink every time Johnson says "my friend" about George), so the plot spirals into a free-for-all assault of silliness that finds Davis teaming up with scientist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and a self-proclaimed "cowboy" FBI agent named Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who I'm convinced is doing an impression of Walton Goggin's Lee Russell from HBO's "Vice Principals"). There's also an evil corporation headed by sibling duo Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, respectively), responsible for the release of this genetic experiment and whose involvement with the plot's development grows more and more absurd.

Oh, by the way, that container that crashed into George's home? Similar vessels also crashed into a wolf reserve and the everglades, so of course the giant wolf and giant crocodile are going to join the party. Due to reasons so silly they're not even worth getting into here, all three creatures are drawn to the city of Chicago in a determined effort to destroy it. Obviously, it's up to Davis Okoye - the mild-mannered primatologist who also has an extensive military background, allowing him to transform into an indomitable badass - to save the day.

Admittedly, you have to travel through some choppy waters of tacky dialogue and ham-fisted exposition to arrive at the tidal wave of what "Rampage" truly is, but the back half of this film certainly makes up for any pitfalls the movie may have along the way. For those who have no expectations other than watching Johnson and crew fend off a giant gorilla, wolf and croc in a 40-minute-plus climax that has no shame in its absurdity, this movie delivers in spades. Don't go in looking for a masterpiece. This is check-your-brain-at-the-door popcorn entertainment at its finest, and likely the best film adaptation of a video game I've ever seen. In those regards, it's about as masterful as a movie like this can be.

The best part is that most of the actors are completely in on the movie's tone, especially the supporting efforts by Morgan and Akerman (the latter being a deliciously wicked villain who resembles a corporate Cruella de Vil). Everybody's having fun, and the movie beats you over the head with its fuck-it-all approach that eventually you can't help but give in and enjoy the ride. And what a fun ride it is.


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