Thursday, May 08, 2014

Rage (1995)

In terms of pure action, RAGE stacks up well next to many other films in its genre, even those made on (literally) one hundred times its budget.

Under the steady hand of director Joseph Merhi, who also produced the film and owned the studio, PM Entertainment, with his partner Richard Pepin, and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2), RAGE bumps from one incredibly energetic and well-staged action sequence to the next.

Chases, fights, crashes, explosions, and stunts galore, RAGE not only offers a lot of excitement, but also mystery—as in, how did they pull that off without anyone getting killed?

In the logic department, well, the screenplay by PM regulars Jacobsen Hart (EXECUTIVE TARGET) and Joseph John Barmettler (SKYSCRAPER) falls a little short, but not any further than other (better) action movies. It’s the kind of movie where participants in a gunfight stand in the open with no effort to take cover, and the “medical experiments” that enable the hero to perform impossible physical feats are never fully explained. It’s likely Merhi figured you’d be too breathless from the action to think, and he was probably right.

British-born kickboxer Gary Daniels—a busy direct-to-video leading man in the 1990s—stars as Alex Gainer, a regular Joe and second grade teacher with a beautiful wife (Fiona Hutchison), a lovely suburban house, and a cute daughter. He also becomes a fugitive from justice after he’s kidnapped by corrupt government agents and a fat redneck cop who use him to test a new serum intended to breed a new line of super-soldiers with super-strength and super-stamina.

Unfortunately, the serum has serious side effects. One is that it kills its subject in just a few days. Another is that it sometimes pops its subject into berserker mode, which is what happens as Alex makes his escape, killing a lot of his captors and instigating a police manhunt.

Where RAGE stretches its muscles more than it has to is in its portrayal of the media. Alex isn’t just targeted by the la, but also yellow journalists who favor style over substance and sound bites over truth and fairness. While most audiences will be fixated on Gary Daniels kicking people and cars leaping through fireballs, the true heart of RAGE is Harry Johansen, played sensitively by familiar character actor Kenneth Tigar. Harry is a veteran television reporter whose old-fashioned style and sense of fairness has caused him to be considered a laughing-stock by his blow-dried colleagues.

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