Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RAMPAGE (1987) - William Friedkin

Rampage is Friedkin's muddled mid-'80s stab at the serial killer flick, a film with a very checkered production history. It was originally funded by Dino DeLaurentis, left for dead when the company went belly up, then released five years later by Miramax after significant Weinstein-ordered re-cuts. But there's more than bad luck and business bellyaching behind Rampage's failure. No matter which way you slice the work print, it's not a good film.

For starters, it's too schizophrenic. It wants to be both a first-person horror flick and an issues-driven courtroom drama. Splitting the difference doesn't work. Psychologically, it's a weak stew, paling in comparison to serial killer classics of its time-- Silence of the Lambs, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. This is partly due to its less than dynamic lead (Alex McArthur) and partly to Friedkin's textbook TV movie approach. The "issues" portion of the film plays like a Lifetime Channel movie about the death penalty. It's an overly simplistic, angry plea for the victim, an under-nuanced excoriation of the insanity defense. Maybe Friedkin and co. could have mined the issues more deeply had the film been entirely from lapsed liberal lawyer Michael Biehn's point of view. Maybe he'd been slumming too much on the tube in the years prior and picked up some lazy habits. Or maybe he shot his wad on serial killers with Cruising. Whatever the case, the shooting in Rampage is surprisingly bland for a Friedkin effort. There's a foot chase in the film where killer Charlie Reese is fleeing the cops through a neighborhood, and Friedkin barely takes the camera off the tripod. This movie is LOCKED DOWN with a capital L. French Connection it is not.

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