Rampage: President Down. 2016. Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay by Boll & Brendan Fletcher.
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Ryan McDonell, Steve Baran, Bruce Blain, Scott Patey, Michaela Mann, Anthony Rogers, Ralph Steiger, Victor Formosa, & Timo Weingaertner.
Momentum Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Not Rated. 99 minutes.
The Rampage trilogy has fallen far since the first film. Honestly, it had flaws but the original was exciting, violent, it pulled no punches in a depiction of a mind gone wild. There’s a central story of the failure of the American Dream which somehow gets lost. Not that the first sequel was anything better. Yet at least Capital Punishment still kept focused on Bill, his one man rampage, rather than getting into the search for him and any of the people involved. Above all, the story of Bill Williamson is one that should’ve been kept smaller, more contained, succinct.
Ignoring any of that, Brendan Fletcher and Uwe Boll have forged on, writing more of the story. Their biggest crime is stretching the character of Bill too far. He’s all of a sudden even more of an expert in military tactics, from sniper rifles to landmines, et cetera. The only thing Bill had going for him in the previous two movies is that he was willing, ready to take on anything, and got his hands on an excellent Kevlar suit, plus a bunch of assault rifles and similar weaponry.
Out of the blue, Bill is a weapons expert. He’s made three sniper shots on the President, the Vice President, and Secretary of Defence; apparently from such a distance there could only be a handful of people on Earth to have made them. Really? It’s as if right from the start Fletcher and Boll’s script decides they don’t care about the character development to this point, and tossed credibility out the window. Sure, things got dicey before this sequel. You still figured there’s some kind of attention being paid to what makes sense in terms of the already established character. Aside from that, the original aim of Rampage and its central character has been utterly lost.
Boll keeps on breaking my heart. With a couple films he’d sucked me in. Between Capital Punishment and now President Down, he’s back to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps a good thing this is the last cinematic adventure from him we’ll see, unless he changes his mind about retirement down the line.
Again, Boll shoots himself in the foot by retracing old steps. He makes the viewer feel stupid by going back over clips from the previous film, as he did IN the previous film with the first one. Just a connected train of bullshit. Maybe if Boll wanted to make things more interesting he’d have cut out those clips, then filled the holes with new, better dialogue. And if that wasn’t the biggest problem, the fact Boll wants to suspend our disbelief towards somehow accepting the fact Bill can expertly sniper with no military training, or any real prior history with actual guns before his titular rampage.
This is what I just cannot accept, not in the slightest. The way we’re supposed to believe he’s killed the President, along with two others, is ludicrous. Just too far gone to keep things grounded, in any way. Of course the first sequel went beyond what the original film tried to do, fairly effectively. But this third entry into the trilogy is too much to bear. Fletcher and Boll have stumbled over their own writing. Just like the previous entry, this one does nothing to capitalise on the original film’s success.
President Down rehashes, over and over, both through dialogue and also visually scenes which came before it. Some bits seem to be jammed into the story simply for effect, or to try and make Bill a more sympathetic, emotionally driven character. It’s more fun to have him as a psychopath, taking a message beyond its reasonable limits into murder and madness. Like, why the fuck does he have a son? What purpose does that aspect serve? This is not an empathetic character, in any sense, certainly not worthy of sympathy, either. And why is the woman he’s with, with whom he’s made a child, so intent on keeping him around in her life? It makes no sense to me, at all. As if it came from a totally different screenplay.
One part of the screenplay I enjoyed thoroughly is how it shows the reach of people like Williamson. There’s a person helping behind the scenes, and what that does is represent how even cops, businessmen, people we assume are behind America can actually become as disillusioned as a young man like the one with whom they’re dealing. The fact Bill has people out there, not just someone in a high up position who can help him but fans of all kinds amongst the citizens of his city (and beyond), is scary and sobering. Because you can bet if this did happen there’d be tons of clueless dummies out there online cheering for Bill, trying to help, offering what they can. Maybe in part due to the fact they wouldn’t realise the seriousness of what’s going on. But rest assured, there’d be very happy, willing participants on a war like the one Bill is waging against the U.S. Government.
The whole ISIS/refugee angle in the screenplay is sort of spot on. Today, the media latches onto anything ISIS says, when they claim certain terrorist acts and other events of violence were their work. Before any information is found, the media (+ dumb people online) say: “Well, they’ve claimed this and they’re the culprits.” So Boll and Fletcher do a solid bit of writing to add this into the plot. Partly it represents the real state of affairs. On the other hand, it plays into Bill’s rantings and ravings about the government. Once ISIS claims the President’s assassination in President Down, you may as well have President Trump sitting at the helm, closing down mosques and rounding Muslims up to be detained, deported, and who else knows what.
There’s a lot of lame acting. Not Fletcher; once again, he’s one of the only reasons I made it through to the end. One of the worst culprits is Ryan McDonell, who plays an FBI agent named Vince Jones. He isn’t absolutely terrible, but some of the more important moments are flat because of his bad performance. None of the FBI agents are particularly good, they’ve got their own respective shortcomings. Steve Baran isn’t much better. When the big freak outs happen as the FBI realises Bill is likely steps ahead of them, both McDonell and Baran are equally incompetent.
Some of the dialogue betrays them. Most of all they’re just not good in their roles, they can’t sell what’s needed and their parts bog everything down. Part of what made the first film good, as well as the only good little pieces of the sequel, was that Bill had centre stage to himself. There were other characters. They didn’t take up space, cutting the legs out from under the screenplay’s pacing, as the FBI agents do here. If it weren’t for Fletcher, I probably wouldn’t make it through the entire film.
Don’t waste your time. The 1&1/2 out of 5 star rating I’ve given this is mostly because there are a couple decent action sequences. And yes, Fletcher gives a steady performance, as he has in the other two movies. There are so many things wrong with this third film that the just over 1,000 words I’ve written don’t even begin to cover the gamut. I did enjoy a couple scenes. Outside of that, President Down betrays the original movie and does nothing to make Bill Williamson grow, or change. It just takes Bill into a new realm of violence, a new level, which is in itself ridiculous because of how they try doing it. Either way, if you’re a completionist and want to watch it, go ahead. I warn you, though, there’s not much to enjoy. You’ll definitely find a better way to spend 99 minutes.