Dwayne Johnson is fighting to save Chicago from disaster in Rampage, but is his charm and star-power enough to make it a hit with critics?
Reviews are in for the movie, which pits him against a trio of super-sized beasts running amok in the Windy City, and opinions are mixed. The film currently sits at just 45 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but multiple critics noted Johnson’s charisma and the pic’s action set-pieces.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe notes that “there’s no denying Johnson’s abundant charisma and brawny brand of self-deprecating humor,” which buoys the “fairly mindless popcorn entertainment.”
While director Brad Peyton delivers “a succession of staggering set pieces,” it’s Johnson and his ape pal George’s (Jason Liles) relationship that “remains the principal narrative dynamic.”
“Johnson pulls this relationship off with grace and humor,” writes Lowe. “The downside of his performance, however, may be that he appears to be just too capable. Whether it’s interspecies communication, helicopter piloting or weapons handling, Davis (Johnson) doesn’t leave much space for anyone else to shine.”
Overall, Lowe found the film, based on a video game of the same name, likely to spark a sequel, writing, “The likelihood that the Rampage movie will be reverse-engineered to produce a videogame is probably already a foregone conclusion, so the only question is whether it will arrive before the likely sequel that’s set up in the final scene.”
The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny was much less positive about the pic, calling it a “turgid, logy blockbuster.” While Kenny notes that Johnson is a “generally reliable performer,” he notes that the star “seems he had less fun here than he did in the recent Jumanji.”
Kenny was unimpressed by the film’s dialogue and the “rather dim” antagonists, citing lines from the script such as, “Lucky for us our building has some of the most powerful radio antennae on the face of the earth,” while pointing out Rampage “has four credited screenwriters.”
Brian Truitt of USA Today compared the new film to another recent release. “If Annihilation is the eggs Benedict of gene-splicing sci-fi film fare, Rampage is the huge bowl of Froot Loops,” he writes.
As with Kenny and Lowe, Truitt highlights Johnson as the “key cog of a movie built for his physical presence, but it’s the relationship between Davis and George that fuels the plot, even when everything around them gets convoluted and haphazard.”
Overall, Truitt says, “You come to Rampage looking for one thing – Johnson tussling with ginormous animals that would kill most mere mortals – and it delivers in that vein.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips wasted no time in calling the movie “a drag,” noting, “Rampage is all pain and no gain. Its massive, ‘genetically edited’ creatures include a 30-foot flying wolf and a very long crocodile with porcupine accessories, both purely malevolent, and in excruciating pain for large chunks of the movie.”
Phillips also took issue with the film’s screenplay, writing, “Nobody goes to a movie like Rampage for the poetry, but truly this is a terrible screenplay, credited to four writers and tonally all over the place. … This should be a ‘Hold on!’ sort of movie, where the most complicated line of dialogue is simply: ‘Hold on!’ (Johnson says it, and it’s very satisfying). Instead, Rampage periodically stops dead for tedious scientific explanations.”
On the more positive end of the spectrum, Forbes’ Scott Mendelson touted Rampage as “the best video game movie ever.”
By “taking its time to get to the main event,” Mendelson notes that the film “allows around an hour of character development, plotting and set-up so that we actually somewhat care about the lives at stake and the fate of at least one of the big animals. Moreover, by holding back just a little, the last act of the film can afford to go gonzo-bananas in terms of watching giant creatures wreaking kauji-ish havoc upon Chicago.”
In all, Mendelson says, “It’s got a fun cast, an unexpectedly generous amount of animal-vs-building carnage and works both as an intense monster movie and a campy creature feature.”
Rampage was in theatres Friday.