Beyond Fright Review: RAGE (2014)

rage

While most films being released these days typically refrain from making any form of statement, in fear of losing their core audiences, every once in a while, one slips in and is able to make its viewers think. The Paco Cabezas-directed RAGE (formerly titled TOKAREV) is just that: a film that while on the surface could be mistaken as just another TAKEN-style revenge film, but in reality is a much more powerful film, fully able to dig pretty deep into some serious issues dealing with gun control and the cost of revenge.

RAGE follows Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage, in top form), a former thug, who does his best to be a hard working husband and father. Through a series of flashbacks, we see that when Paul was younger, he led a rough life, and is now plagued by a mistake that left a man dead and ignited a war between two rival gangs. When a tragedy sets Paul off on a warpath of revenge, he’s thrown in a very dark and body count-filled explosion of violence, one that digs up old skeletons, bringing them back to Paul.

While the plot might sound like every other recent action movie these days, RAGE stands so tall as a film that is able to propel itself into one hell of a memorable time, one that refuses to leave your mind when its over. As the film goes on, Cage’s performance as Paul goes from quiet and somewhat peaceful, to a juggernaut of madness and revenge, when he strikes, he FUCKING STRIKES. With the help of two friends (who were also part of the crime gone wrong many years prior), Paul infiltrates basically every single person that could be responsible for the death of his loved one, and instead of talking it out to see if they’re guilty, Paul brings hell down on them, most impressively, with just a knife (having shot the man years ago, Paul prefers to do his business with a blade). What keeps you completely enthralled the whole time, is the combination of one hell of a performance by Cage, and a seriously well-written script by Sean Keller and Jim Agnew. While a lot of current action fare relies mostly on action set-pieces and very little on character development and/or arcs, RAGE throws its viewers right in the middle of not only some well shot action scenes, but also in the middle of a character’s transformation. As he becomes more and more hellbent on revenge, Paul becomes a ticking clock, throwing himself and pretty much everyone around him (including a great Peter Stormare) into a downward spiral of violence and death. You genuinely are on board with the story, wanting to figure out what exactly happened, and when the film’s final revelation comes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Also in top form, is Danny Glover (LETHAL WEAPON, SAW), playing a police detective/old friend, trying his best to talk Paul into doing the right thing, and not taking matters into his own hands. It’s a really good dynamic, making you as a viewer ask yourself what you would do in the situation, and if exacting revenge would do anything other than create a bigger problem.

More in line with the tone of a very violent version of a Dennis Lehane novel than a big-budgeted explosion-fest, RAGE starts strong, hitting the ground running, refusing to stop until the closing credits roll. After this film, I think it’s safe to say that if Cage keeps choosing roles like RAGE or his recent turn in David Gordon Green’s JOE,  the internet-meme joke of a persona he’s unfairly gotten is definitely going to be shaken out, as it’s one of his best performances in years, as well as the film being one powerful and completely enthralling experience.

 

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