This Is a Movie Review: ‘Rampage’ is Big, Big, Big, Very Big

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This review was originally posted on News Cult in April 2018.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello

Director: Brad Peyton

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Pummeling and Devouring by Mutated Animals, Frighteningly Evocative Urban Destruction, and Crude Gorilla Hand Gestures

Release Date: April 13, 2018

If you subscribe to the belief that bigger is better in cinema, then you ought to head straight to Rampage. Its entire premise is: what if three already fairly large animals became gigantic? The main focus is on our good buddy George, an albino silverback gorilla who knows sign language. He hooks up with a grey wolf that “weirdos on the Internet” have dubbed “Ralph,” as well as a crocodile who goes by Lizzie. The three of them have been mutated by a mysterious gas that fell from the sky. In addition to blowing them up, it has given them abilities typical of other species. It is a bit like the hybridization in Annihilation, but much less nightmarish and internally disruptive.

There is a lot of time devoted to explaining that the mutations are the result of developments in CRISPR genetic editing technology. Some cursory research on my part reveals that early research into CRISPR was happening in the mid-’80s, coincidentally around the same time that the first entry in the Rampage video game series (on which the film is based) was released. It can sometimes be helpful to ground a creature feature with real science, but in this case it is beside the point. We’re just here to see George, Ralph, and Lizzie let loose, and what is appreciated is that there are only three of them, because if the mutations had gotten even more out of hand, this could have all just been a cacophonous mess.

Tasked with wrangling these huge creatures are some actors both literally and metaphorically big. Who else could be the human star of Rampage besides Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is reliably big when it comes to muscles, charisma, and box office results? Lending him a hand is a government agent played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who, though a tall man himself, is certainly not quite as large as Johnson. But as the “asshole looking out for other assholes,” he knows just how big and vibrant a supporting performance in this type of film needs to be. And rounding out the cast’s bigness are Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy as a sniveling brother-sister villainous duo. Their experience in comedy has trained them well for just how to calibrate their broadness. Lacy especially, constantly with a sandwich or Pop-Tart in hand, is bound to get you chuckling with his pouty face.

The climax, in which the mutant trio tears apart Chicago, is filled with stunningly big and bold decisions. The onscreen deaths are somewhat alarmingly violent, though not unexpectedly so. But when we get to a skyscraper collapse that evokes the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, the film scrambles through about 100 different tones. These outsize decisions are consistent with Rampage’s entire approach, but they are liable to leave you unable to process quite what is happening. Bigger is not always better. Sometimes you need to take a step back and ask yourself if a certain choice is really a good decision, but Rampage never lets its foot off the gas.

Rampage is Recommended If You Like: Godzilla, King Kong, Godzilla vs. King Kong, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Gorilla Middle Fingers

This Is a Movie Review: Moonlight

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moonlight-movie-water

What sticks with me from Moonlight? Mostly, it is the small, intimate moments: Juan (Mahershala Ali) holding Little (Alex Hibbert) in the water – an image that has already become iconic. Teresa (Janelle Monáe) setting the table and doing all the talking for her and Chiron (Ashton Sanders). Black (Trevante Rhodes) admitting to Kevin (André Holland) that he’s the only man who’s ever touched him. And I can’t go this whole review without singling out Naomie Harris (miles away from Moneypenny) for giving her all as Chiron’s mom Paula. Moonlight deserves plenty of credit for allowing black and gay voices to be heard, but more than that, the storytelling is right on as well.

I give Moonlight 18 Gold Grills out of 20 Evasive Facial Expressions.