A mash-up of every monster and disaster movie you’ve ever seen, Rampage is a deliriously enjoyable romp starring the man once known as The Rock.
He may be Dwayne Johnson now, but he’s still the rock on which this giant film is grounded, his monumental movie star power carrying a perfect pastiche over the line like Hercules with a blockbuster on his back.
Johnson plays an ex-special forces soldier turned gorilla wrangler, working at the San Diego sanctuary, best friends with an albino ape called George, to whom he can speak (and joke) in a variety of signs. When a sample of pathogens pioneered in a space lab fall to earth, one of the deadly canisters plonks in George’s enclosure and causes him to become angry. And much, much bigger.
The same is happening to wolf in Wyoming and an alligator in the Everglades, wild beasts growing huge, fierce and indestructible through the genetic engineering research of a company called Energyne.
George soon breaks free of his cage, with Johnson and new sidekick and former Energyne researcher Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) in pursuit, trying to stop the FBI, CIA and Army from killing the once-loveable gorilla before George and his new supersized animal chums descend on Chicago.
Look. Explaining the plot really doesn’t capture the sheer silliness of the enterprise, nor the gleeful camp seriousness with which it’s played. Like the wrestling at which The Rock once excelled, it’s clearly preposterous and fake but we are sucked into the game.
It’s Jumanji meets Jurassic Park while Alligator meets Alien and King Kong fights Godzilla, with cornball lines like: “The gorilla survived the plane crash,” and “weaponised DNA” and “we have to get there before the wolf and the gorilla level Chicago.”
Even Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character is doing a Tommy Lee Jones, the weathered, drawling CIA guy barking orders and trying to restore order: “When science shits the bed, I’m the guy they call to change the sheets.” There are some top level script polishers on board here, matching screwball dialogue and B-Movie disaster flick exposition, while some of Johnson’s mid-mayhem one-liners are worthy of Roger Moore’s Bond.
Yet it works because, as ever with the best monster movies, there’s more in the metaphor. Rampage could be about American rage, the out of control id, the unfettered beast capable of destruction, the tinkering of science, the dangers of greed and capitalism feeding ever-bigger monsters. The gorilla, the croc, the wolf – which one is Trump and which is Putin? What can it all mean?
In the end it makes for a purely brilliant Saturday night at the movies, a film to watch and enjoy with your mates and your dates. You’ll come out thinking every penny was well spent, not caring who ate half the plot and cast, and that the Rock really should go for President. With the gorilla as his running mate.