Dwayne Johnson takes on ‘Rampage’-ing monsters

Movie Review

Dwayne Johnson in “Rampage”

This much has to be said for “Rampage”: It’s big and it’s loud, and if you know the classic video game it’s based on, it’s just what youʼll expect.

Being shown Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 17, on TNT, it’s also a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson — who has redefined the movie action hero in his own sly way, adding knowing touches of humor while still putting forth all the brawn you could want from someone who has to stop three animals-turned-monsters from destroying Chicago.

Playing a primatologist, Johnson already has a friendship with an ape who becomes one of the outsized aggressors after being exposed to material that fell from a doomed space station. He doesn’t want to destroy the mega-gorilla that he relates to better than he does most people, but he may have no choice if he wants to keep the Windy City reasonably intact.

A reptile and a wolf are the other giant problems for Johnson and his colleagues, who include “The Walking Dead’s” Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the always excellent Naomie Harris, also a “Moonlight” star and Miss Moneypenny to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in recent years.

Though “Rampage” is less an actor’s movie than a special-effects machine, credit also goes to a perfectly icy Malin Akerman (formerly of the series “Billions”) as a human villain who doesn’t care if a metropolis gets trashed, as long as her own immediate needs are met. Jake Lacy plays her partner in evildoing.

However, it’s clear that “Rampage” is built principally for Johnson when it comes to the picture’s players who aren’t designed via CGI. The amiability that goes along with his rugged physique has been his calling card for some time now, and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” showed just how far that can go in centering a premise that relies otherwise on the fantastic. In the case of “Rampage,” it’s a definite plus again, especially as the proceedings become steadily more frantic.

“Rampage” was directed by Brad Peyton, who worked with Johnson a couple of times before, so he knows just how to guide the star. It turns out that he also knows how to guide big, nasty, computer-generated creatures that know how to wreck skyscrapers and helicopters, and they are the real reason “Rampage” exists. And on that count, the movie gets its job done.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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