The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Rampage (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz


Dwayne Johnson fights giant genetically-mutated animals in Rampage, which is billed as being loosely based on a video game and is not the movie where Dwayne Johnson fights in a giant building.
That movie is called Skyscraper and comes out in July. I mention this because when this movie started with some title cards about recent breakthroughs in gene manipulation I thought, “What does that have to do with a skyscraper? Is the building some kind of human/edifice hybrid?” and then I had to remind myself which stupid-premise-having The Rock movie I was actually about to see. (Though, The Rock versus a human-building hybrid is probably coming to a theater near you in summer 2019.)
Davis Okoye (Johnson) is a scientist who studies primates at the San Diego Zoo and, because of course, was once a member of a special forces unit that hunted down animal poachers. Which is how he came to adopt George, an albino gorilla who now lives at the zoo. 
To clarify, that’s not even the dodgiest part of the premise set up. That distinction is held by the opening scene, which has scientists doing questionable gene-related science in a privately owned space lab. When a giant, spiky-backed rat gets free and starts murdering the scientists, one tries to escape, taking the lab samples with her because that’s the only way her employer on Earth, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman), will allow her to use the escape pod. The lab blows up, the pod blows up but bits of the lab samples come hurtling back to earth and are found by animals including a crocodile, a wolf and George. 
When ex-Wyden scientist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) finds out about the loose lab samples, she comes to see Okoye, getting his attention by explaining that she knows why George is suddenly much much bigger and so aggressive that he was able to easily take on a grizzly bear. When George breaks free, Kate and Davis go after her, Davis hoping that Kate will be able to save George and keep him from being put down by the government that, not incorrectly, thinks a multi-story-building-sized gorilla that is also very hungry and angry is a public safety hazard. The Government is more or less personified by Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who appears to be having a very good time here), who is an FBI agent and on the side of law and order. Which means sometimes he’s working against Davis’s “save the giant gorilla” goals but he also is no fan of the Wyden company, which includes Claire, her doofy brother Brett (Jake Lacy) and her hired mercenary Burke (Joe Manganiello), who are all trying to get the giant animals back (or at least enough tissue to “weaponize” the genetic breakthroughs which, what?).
Some will say that a movie with a giant wolf who can glide, flying-squirrel-style, and whose size I could never really get a handle on, menacing the city of Chicago, which appeared to be capable of evacuating at least half its citizens in about 10 minutes, is not a movie that was ever going to be any good. I understand this point of view but I am willing to put up with a lot of nonsense to watch The Rock be funny and charming and punch and kick his way through an hour and 47 minutes. This movie didn’t have nearly enough fun (or funny), charm or frankly punching and kicking. At least, not enough punching and kicking that isn’t so green-screen ridiculous that it looks like anything. 
“It’s a big arm, don’t fight it,” Davis says at one point to a guy he’s squeezing into unconsciousness. I realize it shouldn’t read as a cute moment, but it does and it’s one of relatively few that has that kind of mix of physical humor and humor based on Johnson’s delivery. Or any humor. This movie was always going to be terrible but I feel like more effort should have gone in to making it the jolly and entertaining kind of terrible that I believe Johnson is capable of and we, who would pay money for a The Rock vs. giant animals movie, would enjoy. D+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language and crude gestures, according to the MPAA. Directed by Brad Peyton with a screenplay by Ryan Engle and Carlton Cruse & Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztkykiel, Rampage is an hour and 47 minutes long and distributed by New Line Cinema. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu