Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Rampage

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

MARGE: Hello, police? My husband is on a murderous rampage. Over.
CHIEF WIGGUM: Whew. Thank God that's over.
Brief Plot Synopsis: The Rock runs a Gauntlet  to prevent a Tempest after his ape friend goes Berzerk and joins three other genetically Altered Beasts in Mortal Kombat.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Beegle Beagles out of 5.

Tagline: "Big meets bigger."

Better Tagline: "The Insensible Journey"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: San Diego primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) enjoys his job teaching zoology students, driving a bitchin' Ford Bronco, and chilling with "George," his albino gorilla buddy. Sadly, his pastoral SoCal existence is shattered when three mysterious meteorites (not really, we see their origin in the pre-credits sequence) mutate George and a random wolf and alligator, turning them into supersized, super destructive versions of themselves. With the help of genetic engineer Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), Okoye sets out to get some answers from Energyne, the firm behind "Project: Rampage" (and Caldwell's former employer).

"Critical" Analysis:
 Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson says bringing the classic arcade game Rampage to the big screen was a "childhood dream" stemming from his days playing the game as a kid in Hawaii, which...has to be bullshit, right? Not the actual playing the game part, but that he somehow seized creative inspiration from a game consisting of nothing more than three giant monsters laying waste to a succession of American cities? Even similar smash 'em up creature feature Destroy All Monsters had that alien subplot.

Leave it to Johnson, his three-time enabler Brad Peyton (who directed Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas), and a quartet of writers (including Lost's Carlton Cuse) to generate a movie involving nefarious science companies, genetically modified animals, and a Special Forces soldier-turned-ape scientist. If anything, it's even sillier than the game that inspired it. 

And thanks to the star's charisma and some juicy supporting performances, it's also improbably entertaining. Johnson, one of the few remaining legit movie stars, is also one of the only people who could make the ridiculous Rampage as engaging as it is. Because for a movie based on the concept of mutant monsters wreaking havoc on metropolitan landscapes, there’s little in the way of extreme urban renewal here (most of George's "rampages" are localized to breaking out of confinement, while the wolf specializes in taking on elite military outfits).

And the alligator doesn't even show up until the third act.

[George, curiously enough, is the only monster who merely gets bigger instead of also getting outfitted with bat wings (like the wolf) or an Ankylosaur tail (like the gator). He's also the most realistically rendered CGI creation, thanks no doubt to F/X advances from King Kong through the Planet of the Apes series (and also because of not having bat wings or a dinosaur tail).]

No, most of the action is saved for the final confrontation, in which all three monsters converge on Chicago in order to, uh, destroy a radio tower. See, the Evil Plan devised by Energyne boss Claire Wyden (a gleefully malicious Malin Åkerman) involves luring the beasts to the Windy City through a high-powered radio signal that's so annoying they have no choice but to come destroy it (kind of like Rush Limbaugh's show). At which point she'll...collect samples? Even by the admittedly low standards for villains in movies adapted from video games, this is gloriously moronic.

Fortunately for the studio, Johnson is clearly enjoying the hell out of himself. His unwavering committment to *any* material make his exchanges with George (a mo-capped Jason Liles) believable, and the bitchiness between Okoye and government spook played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (in full Southern-fried Negan mode) is delightful. There's a half-assed attempt to kick off a third act romantic angle between Okoye and Caldwell, but it's nearly as implausible as the scene where the two of them ride a disabled helicopter down a collapsing Willis Tower.

But this is a movie that doesn't need nuanced elements like "romance" or "character development" or even "sustained coherence." If there's a message beyond "don't play God" (or possibly "Malin Åkerman should play more villains"), it isn't discernible through all the primal roars and heavy ordnance. Can you smell what the Rock is cooking? Probably not, because film is an audio/visual medium, but Rampage is goofy fun nonetheless.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar