Let's face it, Rampage was supposed to be Dwayne Johnson's movie, and in the practical sense it still is. He gets the majority of the screen time in the film, his character is central to the plot, and all of the advertising has him front and center with one of, if not all of, the monsters in the film. And yet, after watching it on opening night, I couldn't help but feel that this shouldn't have been The Rock's movie at all. This is due to the fact that one co-star always upstages the rest of the room when he's on screen in this movie, and that man is none other than Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Morgan's character, Harvey Russell, is introduced as an agent for an OGA (Other Government Agency), and typically those types are by the book people with sticks up their asses. Not Harvey though, as the first moment he's shown on screen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan turns on that adversarial charm that everyone knows and loves him for, drawling out his lines with a southern twang that helps sell his character as someone we're going to have fun with during the duration of the film. He even gets into a measuring contest with Dwayne Johnson's Davis Okoye, and when the two start arguing about taking off the cuffs and getting into a fight, you kind of want to see it. Most men would be laughed off screen if they tried to take on The Rock, but with Morgan's character possessing a giant belt buckle and pearl handled revolver, I can't help but feel this man has enough tricks up his sleeve to get the job done.
The best part about Harvey Russell is that the man is, without question, the voice of authority during this fantastical scenario. History has given us plenty of those types, and most infamously, one could think back to William Atherton's Walter Peck from Ghostbusters as the sort that Harvey Russell would have been modeled after if this film were made in another decade. But instead of just having him stiffen up, and maybe get the random one liner here and there, Rampage lets Jeffrey Dean Morgan smile and steal his way throughout every piece of film he's in, which not only endears his character to the audience, but also lets us believe that he's as big a deal as he says he is.
If Rampage is going to get a sequel, Morgan's Harvey Russell should either have an increased role, or just be the lead altogether. The magnetism he showed on screen in this weekend's box office offering was the one part of the film I felt truly had a pulse. The rest of Rampage plays like a blockbuster that Dwayne Johnson would have made as The Rock, which is not to say that his acting abilities are diminished in the film, but rather the story is lacking. So if you focused a potential Rampage World Tour adaptation around Harvey and a team of OGA agents tracking and dealing with various monsters, with Davis and George coming in for a powerful assist, then you have the potential for a follow-up that makes great use of the Rampage license, allows for the franchise to really have fun with itself, and allows Jeffrey Dean Morgan to totally turn the scenery into a meal we can all share with glee.
With a career that's given him some exciting and entertaining material to work with, Morgan still hasn't landed himself a major film franchise that he's front and center for. That's a shame, because as anyone could deduce with his role in Rampage, the guy's got the talent and the screen presence to really brighten what could have been a standard monster movie smash 'em up. Harvey Russell is one of the most fun side-characters to steal a movie in a while, and if you're on the fence about seeing Rampage, or are going because you're hanging out with a person or party that really wants to see the film for some reason, know that Jeffrey Dean Morgan has you covered. The man may not save the entire movie, but damnit he makes it a lot more fun with his cowboy attitude, devilish grin, and a really funny sequence between himself and one of the villains in the third act. Mr. Morgan, I hardcore salute you sir, and thank you for the magic that is Agent Harvey Russell.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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