Dwayne Johnson has this remarkable ability of taking somewhat mediocre productions and making them engaging and entertaining, proving himself to be one of Hollywood’s most dependable leading men at present. Yet even his distinct charisma and unwavering affability is not enough to save Brad Peyton’s blockbuster Rampage.
Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who shares an affinity with albino gorilla George, who he has cared for ever since the latter was an infant. George is then the victim of a genetic experiment carried out by Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman), which causes creatures to grow in both physical stature and in aggression, which alerts Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as they hope to capture George and put an end to the havoc this gigantic ape is wreaking. It’s on Davis and the discredited genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to find an antidote, while in the meantime the pair hope to calm this terrifying creature down, hoping Davis will find a route into his old friend’s heart and save some lives in the process.
There is always a place for vacuous, throwaway entertainment of this nature, but Johnson has outgrown endeavours of this mediocre quality. He’s simply too good for this project now, as he has shown on several occasions in the past his acting credentials expand beyond mere action hero fodder – with fantastic turns in the likes of Pain & Gain and Snitch. Rampage feels like it’s barely testing the actor, requiring so little effort other than to stand tall and look heroic, with the occasional, supposedly witty one-liner thrown in for good measure.
Tonally Rampage is all over the place too, as a heavily misguided attempt for Peyton, who impressed with the relentlessly enjoyable disaster movie San Andreas. He is far too sincere at times, and given the nature of this absurdist blockbuster, where giant creatures are tearing the United States apart in a more damaging way than the current President is managing, to pull this off you have to take it as far as you possibly can, to be even more ridiculous and thrive unashamedly in the notion of overstatement. But this takes itself just a little seriously – and then when you want it to be serious, it undermines itself with silly gags, becoming too playful when the audience is after some narrative closure, as a film that is tonally misjudged throughout.
From this the viewer gets no real sense for the scope of what’s happening, never appreciating how high the stakes truly are. What doesn’t help are the mediocre special effects, and given this film misfires on almost every level, you just hoped that at least it would provide a real visual spectacle up on the big screen, but sadly, it doesn’t even offer that.
Rampage is released on April 13th.