February 2, 2012

Movie Review: Rage (2010)

Independent movies can definitely be a questionable affair. For every gem you uncover, there are a hundred more that you have to wade through to get there. This is not necessarily a bad thing as everyone has to start somewhere and these early efforts can put the talent of potential on display and help to hone those skills for projects that are more fully developed and executed. Still, it is these questionable and, let's be honest, downright awful indies that help us appreciate the gems that much more. With Chris Witherspoon's Rage, I did not know what to expect, and with that in mind I am happy to report that we have a gem on our hands.

To be sure, Rage is not exactly a fresh and original feature, but it does have good deal of tension, a realistic build, and some jaw dropping insanity as we close in on the finale. The movie it is most reminiscent of is Steven Spielberg's Duel, a fact that is not hidden, as there is a brief discussion of said film by a couple of background characters. Still, it is no carbon copy, Witherspoon brings his own flavor to the mix and has made a movie that is certainly tense, believable, and even a bit scary.

Everything gets underway as Dennis (Rick Crawford) says goodbye to his wife, Crystal (Audrey Walker), and heads into town. Dennis seems like a nice enough guy, but he also seems to be carrying a weight. It turns out that weight is an affair he has been carrying on. Realizing the error of his ways, he is on his way to break things off with her.

On his way to meet her, he has a chance encounter with a motorcyclist that doesn't really go to well. It is one of those types of encounters that all of us have probably had at one time or another. You (or they) usually flip them off, perhaps mutter a few choice words and get on with your life. Dennis heads off and breaks things off, which is not without its emotional consequences on both sides. As he leaves he sees the motorcyclist again. He/she is in all black and wearing a full face helmet with a dark tint visor, no way of seeing inside. It appears the rider is holding a bit of a grudge and engages in some game playing with Dennis.

Dennis is not really happy about this and the tensions escalate between him and the mysterious rider. I really don't want  give you too much. Let's say that initial, seemingly harmless encounter, builds into something way beyond control. It is the sort of thing that I can see happening. Well, maybe not exactly like this, but with the way people can get jumpy and aggressive rather quickly, I can believe if not understand a violent escalation coming out of a non event.

Chris Witherspoon shows off some fine skills in this simple tale of social interaction gone very, very wrong. He kept the story simple, focusing on realism and skilled execution. It is a story that required little in the way of special effects or even that many locations. He used his low budget to his advantage. Rage is crafted with an eye for tension and a gradual build from a mundane opening to an insane conclusion.

The performances are generally solid. They feel like they are in a low budget indie film, but they never feel insincere or unbelievable. Rick Crawford does a fine job of centering the film, never overplaying his hand and letting the situation build around him. Also, Chris Witherspoon steps into the riding gear to play the motorcyclist, without a line the guy strikes a menacing image, although that may be more due to wondering what is going on behind the visor.

Rage is a well crafted, simple story of, well, rage and a situation out of control. It is definitely one to see if you are into violent thrillers. It will not be mistaken for a big Hollywood production, but so what. This is a movie that will hold your attention and make your jaw drop before it is all said and done.



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