Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Shawn Sipos, Matt Frewer, Lynda Boyd, Michael Pare
Written and Directed by Uwe Boll
Uwe Boll is one angry dude.
Exactly what Uwe Boll is angry about is a little unclear. We already know that Boll is angry at the world over the critical drubbing he’s received over his past filmmaking offerings, but in Rampage Boll sprinkles his angry political views every opportunity he gets: the global economy, environmental issues, American imperialism, fast food culture, rich people, white people, people in general, the need for population control, the need for citizens to rise up and do something rather than just talk about needing to do something, and so on. Whatever political points Boll wanted to make with Rampage remain muddled due to his political subtext sounding more like the ramblings of a teenager who has learned everything they think they need to know about why the world sucks from listening to Rage Against the Machine. To a certain extent that lack of focus makes perfect sense since the movie is built around a nihilistic teenager on a killing spree and his best friend who comes across as exactly the sort of politically left-leaning douchebag who can run his mouth at a million miles an hour reciting platitudes about a million different topics he proclaims the root causes of all our societal ills without ever offering up a single practical solution or giving listeners a sense that he truly understands the complexity of the issues he’s ranting about.
There is one moment set inside a bingo parlor filled with players either too involved in their own distraction or just too disinterested with the world around them to care that a murderous gunmen is walking amongst them where Boll genuinely succeeds in making a political statement.
Despite the unfocused nature of the film’s politics, despite a few scenes boasting some of the most tin-eared improvisational dialogue you’ll ever hear, despite a brief and most unwelcome detour into arthouse existentialism that nearly derails the entire film, despite other minor quibbles along the way, Uwe Boll has done something many probably never thought he was capable of – he’s made a legitimately good movie. Not a so bad it’s good movie – a good original movie not based on a video game. Although some of the carnage does bring to mind a certain video game. Rampage is Falling Down for the Grand Theft Auto generation.
Brendan Fletcher (Tideland, Freddy vs. Jason) effectively stars as a disaffected teenager named Bill. His parents (including ad lib-impaired Matt Frewer) continuously bug him about the college education none of them can pay for. His boss is a jerk. The clerk at the coffee shop is an even bigger jerk who can’t get his order right and won’t give him a refund. The waitress at the fast food joint he frequents is an uncaring klutz. His best friend is constantly ranting about how much the world sucks and nobody will do anything about it. Little do any of them know Fletcher is a major league sociopath building a Kevlar bodysuit, stockpiling enough firepower to impress The Punisher, and preparing to stage a bloody rampage on his small town that’ll make Columbine look like a game of paintball.
There’s something darkly comic about the set-up and the way it keeps introducing problematic people you fully expect Bill is going to come back for later when the killing commences, but when the bloodshed begins there’s actually very little to laugh at. Okay, the means by which he first takes out the police station to guarantee he can go on his rampage unabated is somewhat cartoonish (A remote control van rigged with explosives – really?), but the tension turns very real when the gunfire sprays the air and the body count continues to escalates. To quote a phrase a friend I watched Rampage with repeatedly uttered, “Holy shit!” There is imagery in Rampage that I thought I’d never see in a motion picture in this post-Columbine/Virginia Tech world. Boll doesn’t exaggerate the violence with over-the-top blood spray and stages very little of it for comical effect; he keeps it very much grounded in reality, at least as realistic as a massacre staged by a machine gun-toting man decked head-to-toe in bulletproof armor going almost completely undeterred by cops or even armed citizens as he marches down the streets and drives to different locations looking for more people to blow away can be. A scene set inside a hair salon in which Bill needs to take a break while a dozen terrified women cower on the other side of the room builds more suspense than anything Boll has done in any of his previous films combined.
It would be easy to just dismiss Rampage as just being the ultimate wish fulfillment flick for future Columbine kids of America (God help Dr. Boll if this movie ever serves as inspiration for some future Klebold or Harris type) except a third act plot twist reveals there is truly is method to this madness beyond pointless murderous rage and in doing so elevates the movie from being a morally repugnant revenge fantasy that thinks it has something to say about American society to actually being, dare I say it, a cleverly plotted thriller. Of course, Boll nearly sabotages that goodwill with a completely unnecessary final scene that features more of his misguided political posting. Boll would be much better served sticking to the point rather than trying to make one.
In spite of a few missteps along the way, Uwe Boll can be a little less angry today knowing he has crafted a solid, tension-filled, original thriller about subject matter that few filmmakers would dare even touch. Congratulations, Dr. Boll, you’ve silenced many of your critics and did so without having to beat them up in the boxing ring or gun them down in the streets.
3 1/2 out of 5
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