A funny thing happened back in 2009: Uwe Boll made a movie a lot of people really liked. Rampage seemed like the antithesis of the German director’s output at the time, with films such as Seed and Postal leaving a bad taste in audiences’ mouths. Then Rampage came along and everyone was like, “Boll made this?”
The style felt contemporary rather than stuck in the ’80s like many of his other films. The acting was damn fine, particularly because of the lead Brendan Fletcher (a silver lining in many a Boll film). Despite its subject matter, it shockingly wasn’t overtly violent. That bingo hall scene, for example, was downright endearing and showed a lot of restraint from a director known for possessing the exact opposite of restraint. The political message of Rampage was audacious though somewhat confusing at times but overall, the film stands as a bold middle finger during these bleak times.
Rampage ends with Fletcher’s character Bill Williamson escaping into solitude with a lot of stolen bank money. His video message to the world dropped two years after his disappearance, leading to cult stardom for the mass murderer with a message. With an ending as wide open as that, a sequel was inevitable.
Five years later, here we are with Rampage: Capital Punishment (originally tiled Rampage 2: You End Now). This time around, Boll takes on the NSA, Obama, and a slew of other figures he sees as damning America straight to hell. Most loudly, he takes on the wealthy and their influence in government. Much like the first film, there’s nothing subtle about the politics in Rampage 2. Bill Williamson is crystal clear in his motivations for killing a lot of people and seeking a way to get his message to the world. For him, there’s no way the revolution can be peaceful. The Occupy Movement? Don’t make Williamson laugh.
The politics may be apparent, but the message can be interpreted differently by viewers. Williamson does after all kill a lot of innocent people throughout both films. In part two, he begins his spree by parking his ass comfortably in a lawn chair in an alley where he plugs people as they walk by. There’s no discrimination, he just shoots whoever happens to pass by. Then he moves on to a TV station, where he takes hostages and demands they air his video manifesto nationwide. While he’s waiting for his message to be broadcast to the U.S., he checks his cellphone to see what his followers are saying. Then he kills more people after humiliating them in front of their co-workers.
While I agree strongly with many of Williamson’s views on politics, consumerism, reality TV, etc., I’m disgusted by his actions. Is that what makes him such an interesting character? He’s self-indulgent and completely lacks a conscious, but I can’t look away. That being said, I wouldn’t consider Williamson an anti-hero as much as I would a delusional asshole. In Rampage 2, his psychopathy is amped up more than in the original. Brendan Fletcher’s performance (like in the first film) is the highlight. Whether he’s boastfully talking directly into the camera or sitting quietly with an AR-15 resting on his lap, the actor is hypnotizing.
I have to mention that Uwe Boll also acts in the film, which leads to some (unintentionally?) funny moments. He plays the head of the TV station – a cowardly man who isn’t worried about the lives of his employees as he is ratings. It’s a strange performance, but what else would you expect from Boll?
The director maintains the same style he embellished in the original, with lots of shakey-cam and zoom-ins. A lot of the action is focused on one room in the TV station where Williamson sits with the hostages. I found this compressed setting to be far less effective than him roaming the streets, like he did in the first. This led to different scenarios, like the bingo hall and the beauty parlor, and different ways for Williamson to react. Like his complacency leaving the elderly to their game of bingo, that moment was so good and added some depth to his character. Sitting in a room with hostages, he just seems like a broken bullhorn. The smaller setting makes the film feel a lot smaller than the first one as well. Thankfully, Fletcher is able to give even the mundane moments some charm.
Obviously, Rampage 2 is coming out during a sensitive time in the U.S., where there’s a mass shooting what seems like every goddamn week and gun laws refuse to change. Don’t worry though, Williamson addresses this too. Despite being armed to the teeth, he believes in stricter gun laws and is repulsed by our chickenshit government’s inability to reform.
Rampage 2 is actually more preachy than its predecessor, with Williamson’s rants touching on basically every shitty thing wrong in our society today. With the broader range in gripes, I would’ve preferred a bigger setting than the first, rather than the cramped TV studio. I’m sure that had a lot to do with budgetary constraints, but who wouldn’t have loved to see Williamson take his fight to Washington? Maybe Boll and Fletcher will take us there in the third film, which is left wide open once again by the ending here. It’s a decent follow-up to a great film, I just wished they had gone bigger.
Rampage: Capital Punishment DVD and VOD on August 19.