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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 18, 2018

Rampage Movie Review: A Popcorn Flick Based On An Old Video Game Starring The Busiest Actor In Hollywood Today

RAMPAGE is the kind of film that critics will enjoy tearing into bits but, let's face it, it has no aspirations to win awards or be an example of high cinematic pop art. It's just another vehicle for former wrestler The Rock who is now Hollywood's busiest action star who'd rather be known as Dwayne Johnson.

After his movies last year, "Fast & Furious 8", "Baywatch" and "Jumanji", he's now in "Rampage" and in a couple of months from now, he'll next be seen in more action films, "Skyscraper" and "Fighting with My Family". Obviously, he's not worried about overexposure and he has topped Vin Diesel whose movies click only when he's doing the "Fast and Furious" franchise.

"Rampage" is based on an arcade video game popular in the late 80s when such games don't really have a story. Those who play it assume the identity of the monsters who fight the soldiers who try to kill them. The player wins when a particular city he has chosen is completely destroyed.

Now, it's a full length movie and, but naturally, they have to change it to make it a perfect vehicle for The Rock and his "brand" as an action star. He plays primate specialist Davis Okoye, a former military man who also hates poachers of wild animals. In the San Diego wildlife preserve where he is now based, he has befriended an albino silver back gorilla (brought to life with the help of motion capture technique and a green screen) who he first found as a helpless baby whose parents were killed by poachers. Now, the monkey called George is as big as him and he has even taught it sign language.

The movie actually starts in outer space when a weaponized DNA splicer chemical is released from an exploding space station. It affects a wolf in the wilderness of Wyoming, a crocodile in the Everglades and, of course George in San Diego. Suddenly, they're growing so very rapidly that they all became gigantic monsters.

Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) is the scientist who helped in developing the formula that caused the mutation of the animals. She says it was abused by her evil ex-boss, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman), who now wants to sell it in the black market to the highest bidder. She says there's an antidote for the monsters.

Meantime, the scared George goes amuck and was shot by tranquilizer guns to put him to sleep. A government agent, Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), takes George on a plane with Okoye and Kate, who warn him it's not a good idea. For sure, they were right, as George awakes and wreaks havoc inside the plane and in action set piece that sees it going down while the human characters are scrambling for dear life.

George, the wolf and the crocodile now all race to Chicago where the villains have put up a radio signal emanating from a tower on top of a tall skyscraper. This really bothers them big time so they all feel the need to destroy it. The movie's climax shows the spectacular showdown of the three monsters versus each other while destroying all the tall buildings around them.

A lot of movies based on video games have flopped, like "Warcraft", "Assassin's Creed", the more recent version of "Tomb Raider" and even The Rock's own version of "Doom". But The Rock seems more confident of "Rampage" as it is made by people who did his hit earthquake film, "San Andreas", led by writer Carlton Cuse, director Brad Peyton and also the same producers and editor.

We'd like to say that "Rampage" is even an improvement from their previous disaster flick and viewers seem to like the new reincarnation of King Kong, who's not really threatening but is made to appear cute as the even knows how to do the dirty finger and do the hand sign for sexual intercourse. The CGI special effects are also first rate, especially the look of the monsters that can really be quite scary but just perfect for a popcorn flick.

The Rock plays his role seriously and we wish he was just as light and jokey in tone as his interpretation of his role in "Jumanji". Alas, such wacky scenes, as when he sees the wolf fly and delivers a one liner, are quite rare. And we all know that as the "bida", a giant alligator may try to eat him but he remains quite cheerful as he's unkillable.

Naomie Harris helps keep the story moving forward but she's mainly The Rock's sidekick. It's Jeffrey Dean Morgan who knows it's best to play his role in an over the top manner, strutting around with a pistol in his belt. Malin Akerman also knows how to chew the scenery and make her character cartoonish. Her death scene is really one of the biggest jokes in the movie and it alone somehow makes the movie worth watching. Talk about getting what you truly deserve.