May 2, 2018

Rampage: Mutant Monsters Decimate Chicago in Old-Fashioned Horror Movie

By Kam Williams

This critic prefers this kind of old-fashioned monster movie. Loosely based on the video game of the same name, Rampage is reminiscent of campy Japanese classics like Godzilla (1954), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

However, instead of decimating Tokyo, the gargantuan creatures here are located in Chicago. Also, Rampage is a big-budget spectacular that relies heavily on CGI and state-of-the-art special effects.

You know the drill. Some ordinary animals morph into mammoth man-eating beasts after a scientific experiment goes terribly wrong. In this case, we have a wolf, a crocodile, and an albino gorilla that mutate into predators.

Curiously enough, the gorilla has a name, George (Jason Liles), which he got because he was raised in captivity by Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), an ape-whisperer who is, as the movie opens, stationed in Rwanda where he heads an anti-poaching unit that is dedicated to the preservation of endangered species.

However, he rushes to Chicago as soon as he hears that the enormous animals, including George, have begun wreaking havoc. There, he joins forces with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a disgraced geneticist who has access to an antidote. But, before they can administer the cure brace yourself for scenes of horror such as the scaling of skyscrapers, mass hysteria in mob scenes, and — my favorite — helicopters swallowed whole.

Rampage marks the third time director Brad Peyton has collaborated with Dwayne Johnson. Earlier movies were Journey 2 (2012) and San Andreas (2015). The supporting cast includes Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, and Joe Manganiello.

In addition to the visually captivating action sequences, what I enjoyed most about Rampage was the comic relief from the hero, that invariably came in the middle of major mayhem, as if to remind everybody that we’re just watching a movie. For example, when an iconic building is flattened, the hero says, “I need a drink.” And as a menacing creature unexpectedly takes flight, he matter-of-factly moans, “Of course, the wolf flies.”

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for violence, mass destruction, brief profanity, and obscene gestures. Running time: 107 minutes. Production Studios: Wrigley Pictures/Twisted Media/Flynn Picture Company. Distributor: New Line Cinema.