Description (from imdb.com):
A thirty something man who lives in a suburb just outside of Portland says goodbye to his beautiful and loving wife and heads into town. There he unintentionally provokes the wrath of a mysterious motorcyclist. The confrontation between the two, sets in motion a day long battle. Beginning in the form of harmless taunts then quickly escalating into something more serious and then into something unimaginable.
Written and Directed by Christopher R. Witherspoon
The revenge suspense tale is a genre not often tackled in the low-budget world. I don’t see why not; it’s not like it requires a huge CGi budget or children or animals or anything else that makes a budget go up in price. When I was contacted by Christopher R. Witherspoon to review RAGE I was excited: in the over 80 reviews I’ve written, very few had to do with revenge at all. The only one that comes readily to mind is CHOP (review here), which has a completely different feel; CHOP is a black comedy, there’s nothing funny about RAGE.
RAGE is the story of a writer, Dennis, who goes to break off his tryst with the “other woman,” and in doing so does something to piss off a faceless motorcyclist. The motorcyclist starts off with little threats – revving his engine, taking off out of sight only to reappear on a different street – and substantially steps up the havoc. First, a hunting knife gouge down the side of Dennis’ vehicle, then a cut brake line, and eventually it gets really bad, culminating with some extreme revenge.
I was impressed from the beginning with the quality of the production. The video was crisp and there was both good composition (including several nice “mirror” shots) and good use of focus to draw the eye. The use of focus is something I find overlooked in many an independent production; all too many low- and no-budget filmmakers just throw on the “auto-focus” on the camera with results in a flat, lifeless image, when they could use the manual focus to add depth and to direct the viewer to see what the filmmaker wants them to focus on, such as RAGE does. The sounds quality was good overall; it had some weaker moments but never so much to make it hard to hear. RAGE could have used a little foley though; the sound of the bike’s horn is supposed to send fear into Dennis, but the sound of that horn reminded me more of a kid’s tricycle horn than something to be feared.
I also was impressed with the editing of RAGE, in both the fact that it kept the movie going at a good pace, and also the different editing techniques employed. The use of B&W for flashbacks, which then fades into color as the present returns, was a nice device for realizing the difference between the past and present. It wasn’t the first time this has been used, but it was used nicely in RAGE. Along with the editing, the music for the film was really well done. The film’s score was very “thematic,” and by that I mean it didn’t sound like just a bunch of songs thrown together. The music fit the film, was used appropriately to build suspense, and was well produced.
The plot of the film is where I started to have some issues. As I mentioned before, Dennis has been cheating on his wife, and RAGE takes place on the day that he goes to break it off. The mistress just happens to have a felon boyfriend recently released from jail, so we have our prime suspect for who the motorcyclist could be. The motorcyclist could also be Dennis’ wife, who could have found out about his cheating ways, so we do have some mystery and suspense behind this faceless figure. Dennis first sees the motorcyclist when he finds a parking space, and then again and again as the day goes on, both on the road and in person, and each time the motorcyclist appears the confrontations get more and more violent, until the story’s climax which brings some extreme violence and sadism.
Now, my big, big, BIG issue with all of this is the motivator for the violence. I’m not going to give it away here, because for those of you who haven’t seen it I want you to make your own decisions about the film. If I’m understanding RAGE correctly, the reason for all of this is pretty petty, and it really makes me scratch my head as to why someone would go to the lengths the motorcyclist goes to in order to exact revenge for such a small slighting. CHOP has a similar twist at the end, the Stranger has been torturing Lance for what is also a very petty reason, but with CHOP this works because underneath the gore lies the heart of a comedy. With RAGE, in seeing this reason revealed I just said to my self “Really? Really???” RAGE is a dark suspense drama, a revenge tale in which the toll of the revenge is truly horrible, and there are no indications that this is supposed to be, in any way, a joke. The reasoning felt like a joke. If you are going to exact this disgustingly brutal revenge on someone, there needs to be a reason.
Now, maybe the motorcyclist is just bat-shit crazy. Maybe the point is that there is no point. Maybe I’m just reading way too much into this. Or maybe, just maybe, I missed it. There could have been some clue, some point that I just completely overlooked that makes the end justified, or maybe there was a completely different motivator for the revenge that I missed. Maybe. As it sits, when I got to the end of RAGE and saw what I am pretty sure is the reason behind it all, I was just pissed off. Granted, I have not seen DUEL, which Witherspoon lists as a heavy influence on RAGE, and maybe if I had seen that film before I would understand RAGE better, or get the ending more. I guess I’ll need to finally get off my butt and see it (as it’s been on my “to watch” list for years, but for me Spielberg is very hit-or-miss, so I’ve never really gotten around to it), and maybe when I do I will have a completely different feeling towards RAGE. Maybe.
Overall, RAGE is a very interesting entry into the revenge drama canon. It has the elements it needs to keep genre fans happy: there is a cat-and-mouse game, some great chase sequences, twists, turns, violence, and retribution. I really enjoyed RAGE… until the end. The end just burst my bubble, it felt like a kick in the nuts to my movie watching sensibilities, and just really soured me to the rest of the film. Maybe I just don’t get it.
Overall 6.5 / 10
RAGE on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1403987/
RAGE is not for sale yet.
RAGE site: http://www.ragethemovie.net