Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rage (2010)

 WARNING: Contains Spoilers

As Dennis Twist leaves his suburban home early one morning to run a few errands all seems fairly prosaic, in a good way. He's got a beautiful wife, nice home, and appears to be a friendly enough guy, offering to help out his neighbor with a chainsaw problem. Dennis irreproachable image however is shattered to the viewers when we see that he's been having an affair. With intent to break it off Dennis heads into town but on his way his day turns sour when he blindly incites the anger of a motorcyclist. The biker taunts and stalks Dennis for what starts as a simple case of road rage but soon accelerates to a violent horror as the biker is now intent on killing Dennis. But when Dennis thinks he's escaped and heads home he's unaware that he's not only put his life in danger but his wife's as well. Chris Witherspoon's independent film draws heavy influence from the Steven Speilberg classic car thriller Duel in it's first hour and then climaxes to a bloody finale.

I had apprehension beforehand in viewing Rage. The heavy influence to Duel turned me off a bit as I didn't care for Duel at all. Also Rage is in every way an independent film, having been written, produced, directed, photographed, and even acted by one man, Chris Witherspoon. I'm much more nervous in reviewing independent films because they aren't big studio films that I can piss all over, these are films that are trying to get out to the public. The last thing any independent filmmaker needs is a bad critical review, even from a little blogger myself. That doesn't make them insusceptible to my critism though, independent or not if I don't like it I will say so. All that's irrelevant though because I quite enjoyed Rage. As mentioned Witherspoon was able to create a tense thriller in which he took liking to the similar plot in Duel. Not to set you on the idea that Rage is Duel because Rage has a much different tone to it. It effortlessly changes from thriller to slasher film, my favorite aspect about it, the former which instills the tension that the latter shatters with intensity. I genuinely found the biker to be quite scary in his rage, he remained faceless for the entire length of the film but still after certain scenes and images of his walk stay with me. The bedroom scene is by far the most tragic. It captures, in effect to shame, the death of a marriage and may be the scene to make the film. 

Though the affair is a fault to his character it doesn't distract from the likeability of Dennis or the overall sympathy that the script offers. His dewy-eyed stealing of the parking space from the biker is much more innocent than that of Weaver's arrogant cut-off of the trucker in Duel. Rick Crawford is quite good as Dennis. A little weak with his line deliveries but repairs it with an exceptional use of his eyes, which Witherspoon as a director knew to take focus too. In a collaborated effort the two are able to draw so much emotion, and not with just Crawford but Audrey Walker and notably the biker as well, to almost tell the story on it's own. It's quite phenomenal when watched on a second viewing to see how often the use is and how effective it is. It's the visuals in Rage that arrest the viewers though. Again Witherspoon served as DP and it may arguably be his strongest aspect in film, he uses a compilation of different techniques to create a photographed display of emotion. The camera and film used creates this odd post modern grit that I'm particularly drawn into, as I don't like HD but this offers the more high tech version of 16mm film. He also picks up the vibrant colors of the filming location and Dennis's stunning red car.

Usually I don't pick up or take too much notice to sound unless it's prominent and in this I noticed there was a unique way of sound lays. Specifically a scene towards the end where the starting of a chainsaw lapse's over the sound of a phone ringing, making a very provoked sense of fear. As well as early on in the film where it switches in conversation from a clear range of hearing to a muted sense, not sure if that was intentional or by accident but it was really quite fascinating to listen too. The last half hour to Rage is the best though as it really just explodes what ever suspense it carefully built up before hand. This is all acclaim to Witherspoon as every job he was a part of was executed to absolution. It's notably hard in straying the line between paying homage and directly ripping a film off. Though Rage has many moments that are pulled from Duel (i.e. Dennis inner commentary, never seeing the bikers face) it's still its own film and superlatively good. If you a fan of Speilberg's classic undoubtedly you'll appreciate the references but if not it's an antsy small budget thriller that doesn't show its limitations.


Carrie Green, said...

Sweet, sweet review. Pulled me into the action of the movie as well as flashbacks of Duel.

rage said...

Rage has received many positive reviews but yours is probably my favorite review of them all. You nailed it. Please email me at so that I can send you a private message. Once again thank you very much for taking the time to review Rage.

Bleeding Dead said...

Thank you both so much for your comments, and at Rage I sent you an email with a personal thank you as well.