Randy’s Review: ‘Rampage’

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The ultimate definition of a ‘popcorn film’

What is a popcorn movie?

It’s a movie where you grab your bucket of popcorn and favorite beverage then sit back, turn off your brain and just watch with little expectation.

That’s “Rampage” in a nutshell. Another Hollywood production loosely based on a 1980s video game.

Staring Dwayne Johnson, known to many around the world as “The Rock,” the former pro wrestler turned action star is set to make bank again with this far-fetched, suspend all belief action flick complete with cheesy dialogue, bulging muscles and one man’s ability to literally escape every danger thrown at him.

I’m dating myself a bit here, but growing up I was a huge fan of the old Japanese black and white monster films. Godzilla and all his battles, complete with the worst voice overs known to man, I couldn’t get enough. Honestly, I still stop and watch when I stumble across one on Saturday evening television. “Rampage” is like that. Mindless fun. And like the “Godzilla” films, which were a cautionary tale during the height of the atomic bomb fear, “Rampage” creatures are created through a more modern concern against nature, genetic engineering.

Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a former military special forces butt-kicker turned primatologist, who rescued a rare albino gorilla from poachers and raised it in a wildlife refuge in Southern California. Okoye has an amazing bond with George and the two communicate using sign language — including some inappropriate gestures.

A scientific experiment gone wrong on a space station results in canisters of gas hurtling to the Earth during the overnight hours. When the canisters are compromised on impact, George, along with a wolf in Wyoming and a crocodile in the Everglades, are all sprayed with the contents.

The next morning Okoye arrives at the facility to discover George killed a grizzly bear and grew about 2 feet. Concerned for his friend, Okoye begins searching for answers.

As news of the strange night “meteor” shower and subsequent story of George and the bear hit the news, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) races to the animal preserve. Caldwell, as an employee of Energyne, helped create CRiSPR as a cure for diseases. Evil sister and brother, Claire (Malin Akerman) and Brett (Jake Lacy) Wyden, owners of Energyne instead use CRISPR to mutate animals into fighting monsters. We’re never sure what the motivation is for creating the mutated creatures, but that doesn’t matter. Claire is confident she will win in the end and her nervous brother is along for the ride.

As George and the other two animals begin to grow, mutate and become more aggressive, a secret government ghost agency is called in. Jeffrey Dean Morgan leads the group as Negan. I’m sorry, agent Harvey Russell — just played by Morgan like Negan in a suit minus the bat — who arrives on the scene to contain the creatures and stop the escalating chaos.

Initially adversaries, Russell finds himself working alongside the indestructible Okoye and Caldwell as the creatures converge on the city of Chicago for a downtown destroying creature feature battle.

The special effects in “Rampage” are far superior to a guy in a large rubber suit stomping around on a miniature version of Tokyo in the days of Godzilla, but the one thing Godzilla has on these modern day creatures — he didn’t have to share the screen with the Rock.

Not exactly Oscar material, the key to surviving “Rampage” is to know exactly what you’re walking into. Kids and early teens will love it. Action and some moderate bathroom humor — the perfect combination for that age demographic.

Keep your eyes open for the old “Rampage” video game in the bad guys office.

On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, load up 2 1/2 tubs for “Rampage” for taking me back to my black and white Godzilla days. What can I say, I’m a sucker for goofy, ridiculous monster films. This definitely meets that criteria. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theatres in Spencer.