This is my first time reviewing a film directed by the notorious Uwe Boll (Bloodrayne, Postal), and I am a little disappointed. I'd always heard that Boll provides critics with wonderful opportunities to incorporate the most colorful derogatory phrases possible in reviews, perhaps even creating new metaphors specifically to describe the mediocrity of his films. I was ready to have fun after the movie, rather than while watching it. However, it turns out that Rampage, Boll's latest film, is not at all a bad film. In fact, many people may actually like it, as much as it's possible to like a film about a senseless massacre. What is this world coming to?
Rampage is about Bill (Brendan Fletcher), a college-age guy who's disgusted with everyone and everything around him, from his parents -- with whom he still lives -- to the barista who can't make Bill's favorite drink properly to incompetent fast-food workers. His friend Evan (Shaun Sipos) shares his disgust. Bill assembles a full-body Kevlar suit and decides to go on a rampage (thus the title) of destruction in his small town. Falling Down is Capra-esque in comparison. However, the ending is satisfyingly unpredictable -- I assumed an obvious outcome, and was pleased to be wrong.
As someone who has worked in a building adjacent to the UT Tower, where Charles Whitman once went on a killing spree of his own, Rampage was difficult for me to watch at times. No matter what his motivations might be, Bill obviously views people as little more than target practice, or objects from which he derives satisfaction or frustration. One scene where he enters a beauty salon is especially repellent because it's so random. The drama contains very little humor, and is not shy about depicting violence. We see people die, and it's not bloodless, but it's usually speedy and not too gory, fortunately for my squeamish self.
The structure of Rampage includes a number of brief flashbacks or flash-forwards, similar to the flash-forwards in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? but less effective. These flashes include a video Bill seems to have made at an unspecified point in time, explaining some of his motives. I think a more straightforward narrative would have been more effective. The flashes of video fit well, however, with the continual sound of news and political commentary in the background, from news and talk shows. Boll wants to show us the effect of these opinions on Bill's decision making, but it's too heavy-handed and adds a political slant that's more confusing than enlightening.
Fletcher gives a solid, understated performance as Bill -- he doesn't blow his top too much, but we can tell he's ready for some radical action. I'd only ever seen him as the neighbor boy in Tideland, and I was impressed. The rest of the characters tend toward stereotypes, but admittedly that's probably how Bill sees them. I would have liked a little more dimension for Evan, although he doesn't get much screen time, and Sipos has little to do. Matt Frewer is fun to watch as Bill's dad, who alternates between disparaging and encouraging his son.
Rampage may be Boll's best and most entertaining film to date, but again, we're talking about a director whose body of work includes a lot of video game adaptations with a reputation for incoherence. If you didn't know who directed Rampage, you might consider it a good but not terribly inspired indie drama from a filmmaker who's just starting to build skills in their craft and find their style. And who knows ... perhaps that's an apt description, and Boll has found the kind of film that works most effectively for him.If he'd direct more movies like this and fewer like Bloodrayne 3, critics might have to find another outlet for drafting colorfully negative reviews.