Rampage is a film that fails not because of its content, not because of its action and not because of its actors. It fails because of the story, and the way that the main plot is set-up. The film attempts to have us sympathize with the protagonist, but unfortunately fails at doing so. In failing to accomplish this task, the rest of Rampage falls flat.
The film opens up with the day-to-day life of one Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher). He’s a 23-year-old still living at home with his parents. He’s trying to save money so he can go to college. His parents have decided to tell him that he needs to find a place of his own. And the man making his coffee at the local shop can’t get it right. And the person serving him chicken at a fast-food restaurant spills it on him. And his boss won’t give him a raise. All of this happens on one day. I can see how that could upset someone.
His answer to all of life’s stresses is simple: Kill everyone. He makes a suit of armor, puts on a paintball mask, gets a whole lot of ammo for two semi-automatic weapons, and decides to go to town. Literally. He goes into the middle of town and starts shooting at everyone in sight. This is how the majority of the film goes, with him moving from place to place, either shooting or sparing the people who are there. That’s just about all that the film does, and it gets tiresome way before the 85 minute runtime is up.
There are a couple of reasons that watching a man shoot-up an entire town for the better part of an hour gets boring. Firstly, any attempts to characterize the shooter fail in the first 20 minutes. Yes, he has problems, but his problems barely compare to those in far worse situations. He deals with his anger by shooting people. Secondly, there isn’t much variety to his killings. He shoots people, there are a couple of explosions, and that’s it. You can make the claim that it’s more realistic this way, but it can’t carry the energy that it tries to establish early on.
Of course, watching one man murder an entire town is a notion that is going to appeal to a lot of people. You get stressed out, and just want to watch some murder occur. I can’t completely wrap my head around wanting to murder a large group of innocent people, but I suppose that’s something that you could conceivably imagine doing. Maybe as a form of stress relief? It’s better than actually going out and doing something like this, I suppose. And if that’s what you want, that’s what you get with Rampage.
What would have been nice would have been the opportunity to get into the head of our killer, Bill. We get a little bit of his reasoning behind his killing spree, but nothing about what was going through his head during it. He does occasionally stop and have a chat with his soon-to-be victims, but makes little indication as to why they’re about to become riddled with bullets. This could have been the film’s saving grace, as it would mean that the failed attempt to make us sympathize with the lead wouldn’t have mattered as much. I mean, this is an interesting lead character, and his mental state is something that would have been fun to explore.
On the other hand, I’m not sure if looking for depth in a film such as this is a fair thing to do. It plays out more like an action film that wants to be edgy by showing the murders of hundreds of innocent people, and I don’t think it ever attempted depth. It probably would have been better if it had, but asking it to do something it doesn’t want to do is like asking a dog to play the piano. Not an impossible request, but one that is very unlikely to happen.
I suppose mention of the acting would be the only real praise I can give Rampage. Brendan Fletcher actually does a fair job as the sociopathic serial killer, or at least, he better be a sociopath, or he played his character wrong. No remorse or emotion is shown during the killings, and if the character was supposed to show some, then there goes the one praise I could give the film. That’s why you remove your mask in these types of things, right? So you can let the audience see your emotion, or lack of it?
In the end, Rampage ends up being an entirely pointless experience that there is little reason to subject yourself to. That is, unless you are the kind of person who likes visualizing the death of hundreds of people, all shot dead by one man who has seemingly endless ammunition. If that’s the case, then go nuts, because you’ll probably enjoy Rampage. For others, it gets boring fast, and without a sympathetic lead or other reasons to care, you’ll end up wanting to turn the film off around the 100th death.