Identity crisis: Gory ‘Rampage’ wants to be taken seriously, forgets to be fun

(L-R) NAOMIE HARRIS as Dr. Kate Caldwell, JASON LILES as George and DWAYNE JOHNSON as Davis Okoye in New Line Cinema's and ASAP Entertainment's action adventure "RAMPAGE," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo: Warner Bros.){ }

2 out of 5 Stars
Brad Peyton
Writer: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures.

Synopsis: Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is a primatologist with a close bond with an albino gorilla named George. When George is infected by experimental science gone awry, he begins to grow and his temperament becomes increasingly more violent.

Review: Loosely based on the classic Bally Midway game from 1986, “Rampage” is a popcorn film that never figures out what it wants to be. I expected something big, dumb and fun. Director Brad Peyton (“San Andreas,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”) and his team of writers forgot to include the fun. What we have is a surprisingly gory film that desperately wants to be taken seriously, but doesn’t realize it has a glass ceiling that makes that goal nearly impossible. Frankly, if you want to make a movie about giant monsters, corporate greed and the lasting bond of friendship, someone should have called J.A. Bayona or Guillermo del Toro.

The film begins on a space station and almost immediately makes it clear that the film has a vicious streak. This, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “A Quiet Place” also fired a shot across the bow in its opening scenes that set the rules for the narrative that was to follow. The key difference here being that “A Quiet Place” created a sense of atmosphere and stuck to it. “Rampage” is a schizophrenic train wreck that bounces between horror, comedy, action and political satire without warning. The early scenes with Dwayne Johnson work fairly well, but the instant we’re introduced to Clair and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) the film takes a dramatic turn for the worse and spirals downward from there.

When the giant monsters finally start destroying a city, it is a joyless exercise that feels as soulless as Michael Bay’s Transformer films. The fun moments, which there are a few, only serve as a reminder to what the film could have been.

If you’re looking for a film the simple thrills of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Ready Player One” or “Pacific Rim Uprising,” you’re going to be sorely disappointed.