Warning: This post contains spoilers for Rampage, if a movie like Rampage can be spoiled.
When the Casting Society of America hands out its Artios Awards next January, Rampage is not likely to be among the films honored. So let’s take a minute right now to put a spotlight on the film’s casting department, which managed to fill this impressively stupid Dwayne Johnson vehicle with actors who are all of a slightly higher caliber than their roles require. Most of them do good work with the meager material they’re given. Some of them … do not. Of all these thespians, which ones get out of the film’s 115-minute run time with their dignity intact? Let’s make like the Rock in 2003, and run it down:
P.J. Byrne, Jack Quaid, and Breanne Hill
These three play the Rock’s trio of protégés at the San Diego Zoo, who disappear from the movie after the first act. The guys’ job is to not be as cool as the Rock; the girl’s is to ignore them and swoon over the Rock. It’s hardly Pinter, but hey, when you’re a young actor a gig is a gig.
Dignity status: Slightly bruised, but firmly intact.
Manganiello has the dubious distinction of being the Steven Seagal–in–Executive Decision of Rampage. (Although given that he hasn’t been very prominent in the marketing, maybe he’s more of a Michael Fassbender–in–Inglourious Basterds.) He’s introduced as the head of a crack squadron of private military contractors out to kill one of the rampaging beasts. Since we’re only about 30 minutes into the movie, you can guess how well that goes. A few squishes and splatters later, we’re down to just Manganiello. He probably won’t take down the monster, but will he live to fight another day? Nope — he gets eaten, too.
Dignity status: Having read Manganiello’s memoir/fitness guide Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You’ve Always Wanted, I don’t think there’s anything in this world that could diminish Joe Manganiello’s dignity. The man knows who he is.
Akerman plays the film’s villain, a corporate executive whose evil plan to genetically engineer animals in space leads to all the rampaging. (She also sets up a ultrasonic homing beacon that will lead the monsters to her office in the former Sears Tower and then … stays there?) Anyway, she’s Malin Akerman. She’s survived much worse wigs than this.
Dignity status: She’s fine!
Harris, an Oscar nominee, is saddled with a thankless love-interest role, though the movie does at least try to give her something to play besides “stand next to the Rock while female.” She brings a wit and verve to her scenes that’s always welcome in a movie like this.
Dignity status: Our own Emily Yoshida says, “Harris is the best part of this thing by a mile,” and I agree.
If Rampage is selling anything, it’s the Rock’s status as our national avatar of benign masculinity, and the movie works hard to let you know his character is the manliest man to have ever put on man-pants. To quote Yoshida again, parts of the movie are “so transparently dictated by Johnson that I was tempted to feel embarrassed for him.” (A similar thing happens with Vin Diesel in Return of Xander Cage, which makes me think that the two feuding Fast & Furious stars may have more in common than they’d each like to acknowledge.) But he’s also the only thing that makes the movie work — it’s hard to think of another action star who could have anchored a climax as ridiculous that the one the movie gives us.
Dignity status: This movie is to the Rock’s self-esteem as cod is to the Rock’s muscles.
Jake Lacy is a good actor. He was good in Girls, he was good in Carol, and he was even pretty good in How to Be Single. But boy did he need someone to rein him in on this movie, where he turns in a twitchy, sweaty performance as Akerman’s brother, our comic-relief baddie. Unfortunately, I get the sense that there was not a lot of reining in being done on the set of Rampage. There’s a nonzero chance he’s supposed to be bad, but even then it doesn’t quite work: His specific level of gonzo isn’t on the same wavelength as the rest of the cast.
Dignity status: I just hope he had fun making it.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Speaking of having fun, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an actor having as much fun in a terrible movie as Jeffrey Dean Morgan has here. His character — a drawling federal agent with a big silver pistol and a lot of stories about his “grandpappy” — would be a feast for any actor, and you can feel Morgan’s delight in sinking his teeth into it. It’s a big, broad performance, but it’s always fun to see the Rock go up against an actor who can out-cartoon him.
Dignity status: Get this guy into the Fast & Furious franchise pronto.