“RAGE” (Movie Review)
RAGE’s hook is in its title. Yes, that hook is obvious in that it rhymes with the surname of its star. And that’s no coincidence. Cage signed on to RAGE when it was called TOKAREV, a name that suits its story best and yet would no doubt be a nightmare to market (a Tokarev is a Russian handgun). So instead, the middle-management suits retitled it RAGE to cater to the ever-expanding Nicolas Cage internet-based cult, directly alluding to the web meme that sees Cage channeling Billy Corgan.
So before we get into the guts of this review and discuss what RAGE is or whether or not it is a decent thriller, we’ll address the question as to whether or not this is a great Nic Cage flick. Fans watch Cage’s films to witness larger than life explosions of emotion, operatic displays of violence, screaming, fits of passion and expressionist acting. This goes back to VALLEY GIRL; to MOONSTRUCK (“Johnny has his HAND! Johnny has his BRIDE!”); to WILD AT HEART; to FACE/OFF (“I’m Castor Troy!”) and especially to VAMPIRE’S KISS, which is rightfully regarded as the definitive Cage performance (though of course, a strong argument can be made for THE WICKER MAN’s daft charms). RAGE finds Cage primarily in muted mode, the brooding, heavy-eyed wounded role that he would essay effectively in such fare as the superlative and undervalued shocker 8MM. This means he is disciplined and attempting to give his role some dimension, with only the occasional burst of insanity peppered amongst the drama. That said, when Cage blows, he blows and it’s those moments of fire that make RAGE worth a cursory look.
God knows the rest of the flick ain’t really worth much.
RAGE sees Saint Nic as Paul, a former criminal-gone-legit, father and family man who is open about his past and proud of the fact he’s risen above it. When Paul and his trophy wife (Rachel Nichols) go out for a night on the town, armed thugs break into his house, kidnap his teenage daughter and beat her friends senseless. Cue the “rage” of the title. Paul goes ape and turns to his former crook cronies (Max Ryan, Michael McGrady) to arm themselves and comb the underground, specifically targeting the Russian mob in an attempt to find the girl alive and get some answers. Things get increasingly violent and out of control however, leading to a grand finale where all is revealed.
That twist ending is indeed a lulu and almost make the preceding 90 minutes worth enduring. Almost.
Sadly, RAGE is generally a slog and it’s not Cage’s fault. He’s game, doing his best post-Neeson-in-TAKEN “where’s my daughter” slow-burn and, in at least one scene, gives his rowdier fans full value by loudly questioning a man while smashing his skull to a pulp, still screaming and inquiring long after the poor bastard’s brains have been crushed to jelly.
RAGE’s failings aren’t the fault of James Agnew & Sean Keller’s screenplay, either. Though fans might point the finger at the pair due to the fact that they wrote the reviled Dario Argento flick GIALLO, RAGE’s wordplay and noir-ish narrative is rather appealingly pulpy and could have, under different guidance, been a slick, dark exploration of things happening in the dark that eventually come to light. But director Paco Cabezas (THE APPEARED) lazily cobbles together the film as a series of set pieces, devoid of momentum and – save for one lunatic car chase – any sort of stylish bravado whatsoever. The film looks flat and feels tired, despite welcome maniacal appearances by Danny Glover as a sympathetic cop and Cage’s 8MM co-star Peter Stormare as a wheelchair-bound mob boss.
The bottom line here is that if you are a Cage completist (which this critic is, unapologetically), there are a few moments in RAGE that will make you high-five the screen. There are most certainly better contemporary examples of what Nic can do; films like KICK-ASS, JOE and DRIVE ANGRY. I’ll include the GHOST RIDER sequel in that lot too, a film that almost ruined Cage’s career and yet gets better and better upon each subsequent viewing. RAGE is no GHOST RIDER 2. And that’s saying something.
RAGE is out now on DVD and BLU from RLJ Entertainment.