RAMPAGE: PRESIDENT DOWN (2016) Dir. Uwe Boll,Canada, 99 mins
Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Uwe Boll, shortly after the release of Anger of the Dead, and one of the things that I was very keen to talk about were the two Rampage movies to date. Both were pretty good, in my opinion – I felt that both had a certain charged political power and energy that came through in the lead character, Bill Williamson, ably played by Brendan Fletcher. In fact having by choice dodged Boll's video game adaptations (as I would anybody's video game adaptations – the medium does not have a good record) I have a pretty decent impression of his work as a director. Given all of the above, it was hard not to already be fascinated with a third part to a trilogy about a man trying to bring down the established world order by any means necessary. But the plot thickened in this one for two reasons – first up, Boll announced this would be his final film as a director, in part fuelled by an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign and of course that video... you know, the one in which he told Hollywood and film viewers to basically go f*** themselves?
Say what you will about his output – and many critics have said plenty – Boll is a larger-than-life character that I think the film industry will miss in time. He has fans and viewers – he wouldn't have such a long back catalogue if he didn't – and aforementioned critics will no doubt have to find someone else to poke fun at. Not that Boll has ever backed down from bad reviews or negative opinion in the slightest – his stand on his work is forthright, often bombastic, going as far as to challenge critics to boxing matches (and win many of them). He is a singular character in a cinematic world that desperately needs unique characters, and I'll admit right here, right now I'm sorry to see the man retire.
And I would love nothing more than to say this one ends that career on a high note. Sadly, I'd be lying to tell you that's the case. President Down certainly has some of the assets that made the first two movies work, but there's a sense that the film drifts along slightly and maybe – just maybe – given all that had come before, that the director's heart may not have been completely in it. With that said, the ending works very well and is a suitable way to round off a trilogy that I overall did enjoy.
This time we find Bill in his characteristic position of hiding out, this time in the middle of the woods. He has a partner and a child now, which for me slightly softens him and takes away from what had made him work so well previously as a character. All the bluster and diatribe is still there, but it doesn't quite have the sound and fury it held in its predecessors. We are told – rather then being shown, oddly – that Bill has gone out and shot the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defence. That's some serious business, and while the FBI and the three agents therewith we follow look to pin it in terrorists, they eventually figure out Bill was behind it and look to seek him out in his forest lair.
The downside of all that? It takes practically an hour before we get to the serious action of the movie. Prior to that it's a pretty slow and rickety FBI investigation by three fairly bland characters, some bits of Bill's domestic bliss, and much more of his preparation for what he feels will be his final confrontation with the authorities. It takes a long time to really go anywhere, and not that what we see is tedious, but you are kind of itching for something bigger and better to be going on given the action-oriented nature of the first two movies. Very possibly the aim was to deliver something more thoughtful, find out more about what our main character is truly about beyond the 'bring down the system/kill the rich' rhetoric. But I can't help but wonder if earlier in the trilogy would have been the time for that...
As I say, the ending is fairly redemptive, as we see Bill finally meet his end in a scene that isn't overplayed, there's a fine video from Bill to his child (for them to watch when they grow up) and the unexpected conclusion of Bill's death finally bringing about the kind of revolution he has always craved. Everybody loves a martyr and Bill Williamson is just that to his own cause. So the last 15-20 minutes are pretty satisfying, and do leave us on a good note after a pretty steady first hour.
Is it classic? No. Is it the best of the three? No again. It feels a little aimless, and perhaps could have been tighter at a shorter runtime or with more plot developments seeded into the first half. But the closing section is everything I would have wanted as a viewer and fan of the first two, and for that I'm willing to forgive it some flaws.
RATING: 5.5/10. If you haven't watched the first two movies, some of this third part might well be pretty lost on you – I can't see it really functioning as a stand-alone. It needs you to be aware and to care, which those who have watched the whole trilogy may well do. Yes, it drags a little, and maybe there's a sense of the fire and the incandescence that infused Parts 1 and 2 has been slightly lost in the circumstances surrounding this one. But the ending left me happy and basically did everything I would have hoped for, and left me ultimately feeling satisfied. So it's a fair enough farewell at 5.5/10.
I'm sure almost every horror fan out there will have a Uwe Boll story of some kind – something they hated, something they loved, something that shocked them – and never for a moment was it dull. So long, Uwe, and thanks for the memories...