Rampage (2009)

Directed By: Uwe Boll
Written By: Uwe Boll
Starring: Brendan Fletcher
  Shaun Sipos
  Michael Pare
  Matt Frewer

Rampage is horribly unlikable. At its centre is a rotten character that is simultaneously unsympathetic and pathetic. Rampage is violent, furious and occasionally excellent, but it’s also utterly childish and infuriatingly trite. This is a missed opportunity for a director who desperately needs a success. Rampage is a failure.

Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher) is a very angry man. Disassociated from a society he doesn’t understand, he wants to leave it all but is stuck in a cyclic situation he feels he cannot escape. Quickly he realizes he must make a statement to this box-ticking world of mediocrity and boredom – and what better a statement than violence? Lots and lots of violence.

Rampage is a confused film. On one hand it is clearly trying to make a point about society today, but on the other it’s some horrific wish-fulfillment kill-athon fantasy that lacks sympathy, shame, decency or charm.

It begins with an initial montage of our antagonist / protagonist Bill Williamsom lifting weights and attacking punchbags, whilst we hear clips from doom-laden news stories – Oil spills! Osama Bin Laden! Plagues! – repeating themselves on the radio. It’s so trite and overblown it’s embarrassing. Yet everything about Rampage is heavy-handed. Uwe Boll has a message, stolen directly from superior film Falling Down, and wants everyone to understand it. The world is a terribly screwed-up place, money-obsessed and soulless etc… etc… and you either ride along with it or simply drown in it’s capitalistic conformity. Or you attack back.

In Falling Down Michael Douglas’s William ‘D-Fens’ Foster is a world-weary working man who has finally had enough of accepting life’s little irritations and snaps, yet in Rampage Brendan Fletcher’s Bill Williamson comes across as a spoilt brat and arrogant child. His life isn’t terrible, it’s just a bit boring, and he decides to take it out on everyone. Not just the things that annoy him, but everyone.

The plot of Rampage itself is not unreasonable or absurd, as in recent years we’ve seen massacres and killing sprees in Western society – from the Hungerford Massacre in 1987 to the Virginia Tech killings in 2008 – and there have been numerous films dealing with the subject. These usually focus on the psychological break that turns people against everyone they know – see Elephant, Bowling for Columbine or The Class for example – but Boll’s Rampage only focuses on the violence of it, of how the sadistic murderer goes about dealing death to the innocent. It doesn’t glorify it, thankfully, but it also doesn’t hate it or berate it or make us empathize with it. In fact, it doesn’t say anything about it at all. It’s just violence.

Uwe Boll is a director not known for quality, and sadly he can add Rampage to his list of failures. He steals all his ideas liberally from the likes of Terminator, Fight Club, Falling Down and even features an anarchistic character that looks and acts like Tyler Durden, who injects our protagonist with violent thoughts of mayhem and destruction. Some of it is also utterly senseless – where Bill acquires an armour-plated body-suit, two machine guns, a remote-controlled van and a gigantic bomb from is never explained. It’s baffling. Utterly and totally baffling.

What also frustrates is Bill’s constant flashes of the forthcoming violence he will eventually commit. This is not done as a fantasy in his mind, but as some kind of pre-cognitive ability that sees the precise same scenes we see later on. Not only does this pose the awkward question of “Is Bill psychic or is Uwe Boll just incredibly lazy” but it also spoils any surprises later, providing us with action sequences we’ve already seen in numerous flash-forwards. Boll also needlessly films Rampage with the overly used shaky-cam technique, giving it a pointless documentary feel, which actually makes it appear badly directed instead of smartly done.

There is the occasional quality moment in Rampage, like a disquieting scene in a bingo hall and his breakfast table chats with his parents (Matt Frewer as Mr Williamson is excellent as always). Yet these rare minutes of quality footage are not worth the painful clamber through the remainder of the film, which is ugly and unlikable.

The main problem with Rampage is that Boll should never have focused on Bill Williamson as our protagonist. He is a character only the truly psychotic could relate to – he’s spoilt, arrogant and completely devoid of morals. A focus on the police or anyone else may’ve saved Rampage from being the sickening blood-bath it turned out to be.

With only the very occasional spark of genius, Uwe Boll has created another infuriating mess of a film. If you love utterly senseless violence then Rampage might suffice, but otherwise it is idiotic, debasing, puerile and childish. Avoid this taste-massacring chunk of violence at all costs. It is an ugly piece of work.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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