Home Video Hovel: Rage, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
After learning that his daughter was kidnapped and murdered, businessman Paul Maguire teams up with two friends to track down her killer. The only evidence to go on is a Tokarev TT-33, a gun favored by the Russian mob. Maguire and his friends share a dark past, but the identity of the killer is darker still. Director Paco Cabezas’ English-language debut, Rage is a film with more subtlety than it deserves. Its big reveal at the end is surprising, ironic, and effective. The action is intense and disturbing, yet the film just sits there waiting to be forgotten.
Nicolas Cage (Joe) plays Paul Maguire as a man tortured by his criminal past. In the endless action scenes pitting Maguire against what seems like the entire Russian mob, Cage has a fierce anger on display that’s most welcome. Sadly, this is undercut by Cage demonstrating Maguire’s remorse with intense screaming that comes off as comedic. “You’re a rat! Rat! Rat! Raaaat!” may well become as meme-worthy as “Not the bees!”
Danny Glover (Dreamgirls) plays sympathetic Detective St. John with a lot of heart. In the hands of another actor, the role of St. John could come off as a nag warning Maguire to let the police investigate the identity of the killer. Glover makes the character empathize with Paul Maguire instead, adding a richness to their relationship. Rachel Nichols (Alex Ross) also does a fine job as Vanessa, Paul’s wife. Her cold instructions to her husband to “do what you need to do” inspire Maguire to reconnect with his less than savory past. A couple of flashbacks feature Nicolas’ Cage’s real-life son Weston Cage playing a younger version of his father, which is a nice touch.
After a setup that drags on from an abundance of incidental dialogue, Rage launches into several intense action sequences. Paul Maguire has a fondness for knives, a fact that several fight scenes take advantage of to good effect. Perhaps the cruelest torture sequence comes at the beginning where Maguire’s buddies try and get a thug to confess by wrapping a rope around his girlfriend’s neck, tying the rope to a cinder block, and tossing it out a window. Paco Cabezas wisely films the action with an eye towards its brutality. The violence is sickening, and the murders have psychological consequences.
In spite of all the plot twists and the whopper of a climax, Rage never takes off. Whenever the characters aren’t involved in an action scene, they are trapped in dour speeches. Rage has intriguing reveals that could have paid off if everything else wasn’t so lifeless. The DVD has The Making of Rage featurette and deleted scenes as special features. The featurette is just a series of interview with the director and most of the lead actors. The deleted scenes are worth watching, especially the alternate opening that is far more interesting than what was used in the film.