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Rampage (dir. Peyton)

Image: Naomie Harris and Dwayne Johnson’s characters come face to face with George. © Property of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment.

 ★★☆☆☆

Using the 1980s arcade game Rampage as a conceptional jumping off point, the movie of the same name follows Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into director Brad Peyton’s fondness for disaster movies. However, this time it is not San Andreas that is in trouble and it is not an earthquake doing the destruction. This time, it is 30ft animals wreaking havoc and Chicago that is in danger – so nothing alike right.

Director: Brad Peyton. Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. [12A]

It’s clear to see, especially since he has said as much himself – that director Brad Peyton has a larger than life vision of movies. Growing up through the 80s and 90s on the likes of Terminator 2, Tremors, Commando and James Bond films, even the disaster movies of those decades like Dante’s Peak. Makes evident that through the eye of those films and those decades, it certainly is a film of that time…and that is the biggest problem with Rampage. This is a formula that while it has many film nerds and action movie buffs adoring everything about Schwarzenegger’s one-liners and the way Robocop holsters his weapon – it gives Rampage an out of time feeling and worse still is while it is self-aware enough to recognise this is mindless fun, it still almost takes itself too seriously. Somewhere between tongue in cheek humour and preachy ‘humans are the real villains’ disaster movie, lies Rampage, a propped up cold corpse of nostalgia.

This nostalgia for the tone of films in that decade is smeared across every part of the movie, but none of it is executed with any inspiration or fun. The humour is dry, cringy, never landing or finding its moment, it would be no surprise to go the entire film without expressing more than a grin. The characters are larger than life too, shown best in Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s scene chewing, government agent who is more like Lethal Weapon’s Riggs with all of Morgan’s Neganisms (doesn’t look like he will ever escape his dastardly charming villain appeal – but maybe that is a good thing since he is so damn great at it). Then there is Johnson’s paleontologist, there is a joke about Johnson being the avatar for an archaeologist in the recent Jumanji film. A hilarious jab at video games, as well as the characters that film stars such as The Rock tend to play, clearly a joke that was missed on Peyton. Regardless Dwayne Johnson is every bit a film star as Brad Pitt, but even more so. He reaches across demographics and tastes, there are no jagged edges to him, he is smooth, charismatic and just plain likeable (Much like George Clooney or Jimmy Stewart in that regard) and for the most part, saves the film from being exhaustively dull with all of it riding on his charisma.

It is through Johnson’s and Morgan’s screen presence that the empty plotline for two-thirds of the movie moves along at least, briskly. Its message through these parts of the film, although agreeable, is uninvolved and overbearing to the story. There just is not enough substance or real discussion to take its message seriously in a movie so over the top. Then for the final act of the film, the real fun beings, it is exactly what you’ve come to see – giant furious animals tearing across the city, fighting while Dwayne Johnson… paleontologist, “saves the world” as Morgan’s character hilariously remarks. Thankfully the CGI is not distracting and blends in surprisingly well, the big fight scenes are immersive and despite the stale, James Bondian, abysmally written villains shoe-horning their way into the film every so often. The last act of the film, boisterous and excessive as it is, is exciting and basically fun – just a shame the film took an hour and a half to get there.

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