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Rampage review: The Rock runs out of steam instead of going ape

Out now on Blu-ray and DVD, this creature feature is the low point of the Rock's summer.

Warner Bros

If I tell you there's a moment in Rampage when a wolf eats a helicopter, it probably makes the movie sound more fun than it is.

Rampage is on digital, Blu-ray and DVD now. If you missed it at the movies, it could be because you went to see the other flick where the Rock takes on giant animals, the refreshingly fun Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Or maybe you saw the other movie where the Rock battles his way through smashed-up buildings, the deliriously silly Skyscraper.

Any other summer, Rampage would've been standard silly season filler -- but this year, next to the Rock's other releases setting the blockbuster bar, it falls short.

This creature feature opens with a space station running into trouble when shady genetic experiments go wrong. This gene-editing malarkey has a terrifying effect on animals, and wouldn't you know it, bits of it happen to crash-land slap bang in a national park and a zoo. That's where the animals are! What're the chances?!

Now playing: Watch this: First 'Rampage' trailer drops
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Next thing you know, apes and wolves and alligators -- oh my -- are growing to enormous sizes and setting off on, you guessed it, a rampage. Out to stop them is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a zookeeper dismayed to see his friend George the sign language-speaking silverback gorilla become an oversized killing machine. The best thing about the film is the relationship between Johnson and his monkey chum, which incredibly is the only relationship that feels even vaguely real. 

Assisting the Rock and his overdeveloped shoulders are Naomie Harris as a scientist and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a cowboy-styled government agent. Adding a touch of class to proceedings, Harris gamely takes things very seriously, while Morgan absolutely refuses to do anything of the sort.

Joe Manganiello also appears, as the scarred and scowling head honcho of a squad of gun-toting mercs called in to take out the cantankerous critters. In any other movie these steroidal body-armoured badasses would be the heroes -- and Johnson could easily play the role -- but a big part of the Rock's appeal is that he's smarter and funnier than those big ol' bulging muskles suggest. In fact, it's really refreshing to see the movie begin with Johnson's easygoing primatologist urging everyone to set aside their guns, choosing instead to sooth the savage beast.

Between this and Skyscraper, in which Johnson's character has renounced guns and takes on terrorists armed only with his own prosthetic leg, and Jumanji, in which he's a nerdy teen trapped in the body of a Samoan god, the Rock personifies a new, more nuanced action hero, leaving behind the barking jarhead stereotype for a smart and slyly funny everyman who just happens to eat a lot of protein.

Sadly, in Rampage, it doesn't last. Johnson's placid primatologist is nonsensically revealed to have the hackneyed action hero background we've seen in decades of straight-to-video shoot-'em-ups. And so the Rampage begins to run out of steam. The fun of the opening act gives way to a turgid, noisy and repetitive battle through city streets. It's a rather tepid rampage, with the voracious varmints apparently bypassing the entire country and skipping straight to downtown Chicago, repeating the worst bits of every movie from the last few years that end with giant CG monsters toppling buildings while humvees uselessly pump tracer rounds into them. For a movie based on a video game about giant animals chomping on fighter planes, it's surprisingly un-epic. Grey monsters smash grey buildings into piles of grey rubble. This lengthy final boss fight feels more like a demo reel for the software that algorithmically simulates large-scale destruction rather than the resolution of a story.

The Blu-ray extras include various making-of featurettes, which are fairly diverting. It also has a gag reel of bloopers and some deleted scenes, but you barely need to bother with what made it in, let alone what got snipped. The highlight is a look at the performance capture of George the ape, though I'd have really liked a commentary on the film from the Rock himself. 

This summer's other giant monster mash-up, The Meg, starring Jason Statham, gleefully embraced its own ridiculousness and was all the more entertaining for it. Up against that, Jumanji, and Skyscraper, Rampage feels phoned-in. This summer, the Rock's toughest foe is not a colossal mutated alligator -- it's himself.

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