Perhaps there is no more vilified name in cinema than Uwe Boll; his feature films are placed in the ballpark of Ed Wood, though no one can argue that more effort has gone into Boll’s. Many of them actually don’t look bad: if it weren’t for the silly plots, dialogue and mostly third-tier casts, Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King might seem little more than adequate genre knockoffs, no concentrated venom required. Yet Boll takes his work seriously (as any artist should), and perhaps it is the director’s boisterous attitude that engenders the ire of fan-boy and critic alike.
I feel like the underdog deserves as many chances as he can get, and in the case of Boll, it was bound to happen that one of his movies would hit its mark. Thus we are presented with Rampage, a what-if? style thriller that supposes a young man can gather the materials together to create a full Kevlar suit and stockpile enough weapons and ammo to attack an entire city in one afternoon, killing everyone that gets in his way. Young, old, men, women…especially the clumsy waitress and the slimeball barista. They all have to go, thinks Bill (Brendan Fletcher).
Bill seems like your average layabout high school grad who has remained in his parents’ home a year or two longer than expected. With no college plans, no job other than mechanic work at a local garage (where his expertise is overlooked by a needling employer), Bill is the poster boy for No Prospects. But one afternoon he tells his frustrated-but-loving parents that the next morning, he has a big announcement. And after that, a rampage that makes Columbine look like a traffic violation.
Much of the film’s second act is the robotic decimation of the town’s unknowing populace, from an initial strike on the police station to a group of women in a salon and an apparent bank robbery. But there is something far more clever going on in Rampage, something very close to a philosophy, which makes it more frightening than some random slaughter. To discuss this would spoil some of the film’s closing arguments, so let it suffice that Bill is not small-minded about his efforts.
Boll does a nice job of keeping the film gritty and raw, and while a training sequence at the end of the first act drags a bit, the film is well-paced and intense. And it is not without humor. Dark, sly moments pop up here and there, as when Bill enters a bingo parlor during his assault: his face obscured by a mask, you can sense his disgust when a sandwich doesn’t taste good, and as he walks through row upon row of seniors playing games, no one seems to take note of the armor-clad fellow with the automatic weapons.
Rampage is the epitome of the low-budget genre film. It is effective, straightforward, has surprising depth, and manages to both chill and amuse with an unexpected take on its types. It is worth watching.
(Rampage is currently available on DVD and Netflix streaming)