To be in a position where I’m giving the latest film from Dr. Uwe Boll
a favorable review is strange, to say the least. Boll has been so
dependable up until now in delivering absolute garbage that I had to
reconsider my opinion on Rampage multiple times – was I favorable simply because the film exceeded my expectations of ‘barely watchable nonsense?’

In fairness, it isn’t like Rampage is great. It’s
decent. OK, perhaps. It has some interesting stuff in it. And it has a
twist ending that, for me, really makes the whole film, and that
salvages what would have otherwise been a lackluster bit of nihilistic
posing (mind you: lackluster is miles better than what Boll has
previously accomplished). The movie’s main point is a brutal and
pointless shooting spree that the main killer undertakes in the streets
of a small Oregon town, but what’s really brutal and pointless is the
improv nature of the script. Boll’s actors (with the exception of Matt
Frewer, paying his cable bill with an appearance as the shooter’s dad)
deliver the kind of improv that makes you wonder if they even speak in
their natural life; how can anyone come up with so many unconvincing
sentences and deliver them so poorly? Of particular delight is the mom,
Lynda Boyd. The film takes place in America (it’s a big part of the
movie’s ‘point’ that this kid be shooting up the modern American
dream), but she’s Canadian (the film was shot in Vancouver) and can’t
hide it. Hey Lynda, nobody says ‘bum’ for ‘butt’ in the States.

There’s some minor buildup to the main event, and Boll heavily peppers
the movie with political anger, all of it unfocused. He’s mad about the
environment, about the economy, about imperialism, about white people.
His lead, Brendan Fletcher, is absolutely terrible, but I almost feel
like Boll knew that and hired the kid for his utterly vapid style.
Fletcher’s a human sinkhole of emotion and meaning, and he completely
refuses your attention as a moviegoer. While some film actors are
magnetic, Fletcher is the opposite pole of that, repulsing your gaze at
all times. But when he dons a black suit of body armor and weapons up
he becomes an intriguing protagonist, and if that’s on purpose it’s
brilliant. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were likely not the center of
parties in Littleton, either. All of the people who go on spree killing
rampages seem to be pathetic twerps, and runtish Fletcher – he’s got a
Walter Kovacs look about him – is all too believable as a guy with a
festering anger he’s not even intelligent enough to understand
(although, again, the end remakes all your expectations about this
stuff, so kudos to Dr. Boll for that as well).

The rampage itself does not feature giant monkeys or lizards, as one
might expect from the video game auteur. It’s also surprisingly tame. I
thought that Boll would go balls to the wall bloody here, since this is
a low budget film that’s all about a senseless spree killing, but he
keeps things mostly at squibs without gushing fountains of blood. I
think I would have preferred something messier, but Boll does keep the
carnage somewhat entertaining enough to make up for its relatively
dryness. He also can’t help but throw in some comedy, including an
extended scene at a bingo parlor where the shooter seems to decide that
the zombified elderly gamblers are already dead enough. Eventually the
shooting goes a touch long (and it opens with its best bit, a huge
explosion at a police station), making the final twist very welcome.

Boll shoots everything with an aggressively shaky-cam. It annoyed me,
and I have no problem with general shaky-cam style; the technique is
used without rhyme or reason, as if Boll simply knew that people expect
such cinematography. And he pointlessly creates lots of jump cuts,
probably because he thinks that’s how an ‘indie’ movie should look.
These bad decisions are almost endearing; they come very close to
sinking the movie, but Rampage has a spunky spirit that
just keeps overcoming. Boll’s best talent as a director may be a sense
of pacing, and he’s acutely aware when a scene or a moment has worn out
its welcome.

Rampage feels like the first draft of a much better film;
this is a movie that I’d be very happy to see remade by a better
director. But on its own the movie is an enjoyable, strange and
sometimes intriguing piece that’s strongly redeemed by a very clever
finale. It’s been a long learning curve, but it looks like Uwe Boll
might one day be a real filmmaker.

7 out of 10