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Rage
(1995)

Director: Joseph Merhi    
Cast:
Gary Daniels, Kenneth Tigar, Fiona Hutchinson


I've tried very hard. Lord knows, I have tried so hard. But you keep refusing to see the truth. First I approached you as a friend, with something secret that I wanted to share that I felt would be welcomed and appreciated. "Yesterday I taught you about 'P' - now today comes 'M'."You turned a deaf ear to my gestures of friendship. So I dressed myself as an authority figure, so I could repeat what I said earlier, though with a commanding air. You just simply sneered and looked in the other direction. It was then that I got really desperate. I then decided to try again, but to fight dirty this time, reaching to your lower instincts and bribing you with promises of joy. You resisted all of my charms. So now it's come to this. As of now, my feet are planted in your stomach, and my hands are held tight to your collar. I am nose to nose with you, and I am screaming in your face! Not only that, I am slapping you in the face back and forth with one hand, one way with the palm side, and the opposite way with the back of my hand. With each slap, I scream in your face, "Don't you get it?!?" Then I grab you with both hands again, and give you a vigorous shake. And then I engage in another slapping spree. Have I finally managed to hammer into your skull what I have been trying to get you to understand for so long? Since it's taken this long without any kind of success, I kind of doubt it, so it looks like I will have to repeat myself once again. Let me tighten my grip on your collar, press my face closer to yours, and tell you what needs to be told.

There are a lot of movies out there. It's pretty safe to say that most of them are mediocre to poor. We are always seeking out the ones that are good, sifting through the garbage to get to the good stuff. So when we hear of a good movie, we are inclined to seek it out, right? Anything helps in the quest to find suitable entertainment. For the longest time, I have been speaking of the virtues of certain movies, movies that are good and deliver the entertainment they promise. But you have turned a deaf ear to my recommendations. I don't get e-mails from you stating that my reviews of these certain movies drove you to watch them, never mind liked them. When I get the Amazon sales reports every quarter, I don't see that you have all rushed to Amazon to purchase these movies. And as I've stated before, I don't see any of you have gone online to write about the bountiful merits of these movies. What specific movies am I talking about? I'm talking about movies from PM Entertainment. For the past few years, I have been praising the best this company offered. Movies like Last Man Standing, The Sweeper, The Underground, and The Art Of Dying, chock full of stuff like explosions, guns, and broken glass. My love for these movies is unbound; I've even written a haiku about them: Glorious action / That's PM Entertainment / Their movies kick ass. Not all PM movies are great, but the ones that are deliver the goods in such a spectacular way that I am genuinely puzzled why their fanbase isn't higher, let alone why you haven't gone to the trouble to watch them.

I am determined to keep pressing PM Entertainment on you until you get it. (Slap!) The fight ahead for me is mixed. On the negative side, I am starting to run out Lights... camera... ACTION!of glorious PM movies to review for this web site. On the other hand, I've had a recent boost to my quest because of the DVD boom. (DVD! Oooh, DVD! Etc.) Many older movies have been reintroduced to the public because of DVD, and that includes many from PM Entertainment. Madacy Home Video has gotten the rights to older PM movies (like The Art Of Dying), and has released a whole mess of them on DVD. More recently, Universal Home Video and Kreative Digital Entertainment have teamed up to release on DVD PM Entertainment films that were made during PM's peak - movies like The Silencers and Last Man Standing. Another of these releases includes Rage, directed by PM co-founder Joseph Merhi, and starring martial arts star Gary Daniels (Epicenter and Spoiler). In the movie, Daniels plays Alex Gainer, an elementary school teacher with a loving wife and daughter. It's an idyllic life, one where it seems no one questions just why he has a thick foreign accent. But the peace and calm of his life is shattered one day when while driving in the neighborhood, he is carjacked by a crazed man. The police soon catch up and surround the two men, but they turn out to be corrupt cops. The cops knock Alex out and transport him to a secret laboratory, where he's injected with an experimental drug that gives a man superhuman strength. With his new powers, Alex manages to escape - though The Powers Behind It All brand him a mass murderer to the press, and he finds he must keep running from the law.

Gary Daniels is in almost every scene of the movie, so he has quite an acting burden to carry though an hour and a half of screen time. He does possess a "nice guy" demeanor that automatically gives him some amount of sympathy from the audience, and he does well in the action sequences (even doing some of the dangerous stuntwork himself.) It's a different story when it comes to doing some bona fide acting. His thick British accent sticks out like a sore thumb, making his line delivery almost comical at times. It doesn't help that there is no real explanation ever given as to how this Brit found his way to southern California, making the movie seemingly too lazy to give us a simple explanation. Another problem with Daniels' performance is that he is seemingly unable to express the title emotion. Though the formula he's injected with is linked to episodes of rage in the previous test subjects, at no time did I feel that this character was almost out of control in his behavior. Part of the blame can fall on the fact that the character is written to be too sharp-minded in his actions during his various struggles, ingeniously using his environment on several occasions to outwit his enemies. But Daniels keeps the same panic-stricken expression on his face no matter the circumstances. This wouldn't have been so bad if the character was more of an everyman with normal powers, but it's completely wrong for a character that's supposed to be out of control and with superhuman abilities.

There are some better performances among the supporting players. Dave Powledge plays a fat slimy cop that's thoroughly corrupt, and he is so effective in the role that it's a shame that he exits the movie early on. I said ACTION!There's also a good job done by Kenneth Tigar (Route 9) as a TV reporter who suspects there's a lot more to this fugitive than the authorities and his fellow newsmen are stating, and is determined to find out the truth. Tigar makes his character an honest one, one that clearly wants a juicy story for his very own, but is still deep down a decent human being that can't help but have some personal feeling towards what he is covering. He is supported nicely by Jillian McWhirter (Last Man Standing), who plays his camerawoman. While I'm on the subject of newspeople, I might add that it's this area where Rage decides to go political, something which many PM movies lean towards at one time or another. Rage criticizes the state of which news reporting often falls to, reporting the sizzle instead of the steak, so to speak. None of the other reporters in the movie seem interested in looking at the other side of the issue at hand, or seem to have any bit of heart left like Tigar's character has. Wisely, director Merhi doesn't spend a lot of time preaching about this issue; doing so would only slow things down, and it's something the audience is already familiar with. Merhi is succinctly sums it up with the statement, "New school of reporting seems to be to see how far you can truthfully shove your nose up a man's ass!"

But neither the actors nor any messages are the real stars of Rage. Once again, it's the action sequences that shine and make the movie worth seeing. Are they up to the action sequences found in grade-A PM movies like Last Man Standing and The Sweeper? No, not quite; the action here is a few notches below those two efforts. But even a lesser PM action movie still beats the pants off your typical made-for-video actioner, and it must be admitted that it gets one or two moments done brilliantly. For example, the movie opens with a shootout where not just ordinary people get shot, but several cops as well. From that point on, there's no turning back as the movie delivers the goods scene after scene. When he makes a break to escape from the bad guys' laboratory, Daniels first gets into a kung fu fight while strapped in a strait-jacket. Then when he's free, he grabs an Uzi and leaps and bounds around the lab as he fires countless rounds into everyone. Later, there's a chase sequence on a freeway (which seems to be the same strip of road used in the climatic chase in The Underground) which uses not one but two mack trucks, as well as a school bus (no kids inside the bus, alas.) The shopping mall climax contains (among other things) a ton of broken glass, PM's trademark. And what other movie can boast a kung fu battle between the movie's hero and a couple dressed in S&M clothing?

You may be wondering why, if there is all this glorious action in the movie, why I rank the movie's action below that from Last Man Standing and The Sweeper. Well, there are several reasons for that. Sorry, but Kenneth Tigar doesn't inspire wacky captionsOne reason is that there is a slight reek of cheapness and cost-cutting in a few of these sequences. The laboratory, for one thing, is pretty cheesy, tin foil lining and obvious false walls. (It also appears they recycled some props from Hologram Man, made around the same time.) It distracts from the action that soon takes place in it. Another reason is that there are some technical flaws in some of these scenes, flaws that distract and spoil the momentum that has been building. For example, during the freeway chase there is a multi-car smashup, and for a brief moment you can see some cables attached to the cars. In another scene, Daniels is hanging on the ledge of a building, and in one shot you can clearly see the safety cable that's attached to him. There are a lot more technical flubs I could go on about, such as with the editing; key moments (such as the actual injection of the formula) are missing and momentarily jar the audience with confusion about what's happening. But this is a PM movie - don't you get it?!? (Slap!) Even a PM movie that has a few flaws still beats the pants off most made-for-video (and even a lot of theatrical) action movies. What's that? You're still reluctant? (Sigh) Okay then: Please watch PM movies. Don't make me lower myself any further.

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See also: The Art Of Dying, Last Man Standing, The Sweeper

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