Film Review: Rage

In different hands, <i>Rage </i>could have been a devastating chronicle of the sins of the fathers being visited on their children, friends and random unfortunates. But Andalusian filmmaker Paco Cabezas, making his English-language directing debut, is

The shadows of daddy-vengeance movies like the Jason Statham vehicle Homefront (2013), the Liam Neeson starrer Taken (2008) and the Paul Schrader-scripted Hardcore (1979) and Rolling Thunder (1977) hang heavily over Rage, in which former Irish-mafia thug Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage), who went straight after his first wife's death from cancer and devoted himself to raising his now 16-year-old daughter, Caitlin (Aubrey Peeples), and building a successful property development business, discovers that the past is never dead…it isn't even past.
Remarried to the beautiful, supportive Vanessa (Rachel Nichols, star of Canadian future-cop TV series “Continuum”), who loves Caitlin like her own flesh-and-blood, Paul appears to have a perfect life until his home is invaded by gun-wielding thugs while he and Vanessa are out at dinner and Caitlin and puppy-boy classmates Mike and Evan (Max Fowler and Jack Falahee) are hanging out watching Night of the Living Dead on TV. Both boys wind up in the hospital and Caitlin is kidnapped, only to be found dead soon after, shot in the head with a Tokarev—a pistol favored by Russian gangsters like mob boss Chernov (Pasha D. Lychnikoff).
Police detective St. John (Danny Glover) counsels Maguire to stand down and let the police do their job, which is roughly as likely as an invasion of sparkly unicorns who come bearing amnesty for every bad thing anyone has ever done and scattering pixie dust in their wake. Paul gets in touch with former partners-in-crime Kane (Max Ryan) and Danny (Michael McGrady), each of whom has more or less left his wild youth behind. (Just how wild it was is revealed in a flashback to the time teenagers Kane, Maguire and Doherty ripped off a low-level Russian bag man.) Suffice it to say fate has a trunk-load of nasty surprises to spring on Paul before the mess is sorted out and the bloodshed over.

Maguire's investigation into his daughter's death is a slash-and-burn expedition into some brightly lit, urban heart of darkness (it was shot in Mobile, Alabama) in which smart, pretty schoolgirls are never more than one iffy acquaintance (or relative) from turning up dead in some neatly manicured public park. That's many parents' worst nightmare, if not necessarily a scenario that attracts teenage boys—the go-to audience for no-smarter-than-they-have-to-be thrillers—like moths to the flame.
Fans of the kind of bughouse-crazy Nicolas Cage meltdowns celebrated in more YouTube compilations than the average person cares to watch may be disappointed that he spends most of Rage at a low boil, but that said, Cage indulges in low-level freakouts throughout, and a low-level Nicolas Cage freakout is easily the equivalent of most anyone else's nuclear-core collapse. The plot actually holds together surprisingly well, but in the end Rage—a sadly generic title already used by at least a dozen earlier films—is more sound and fury than genre-cliché challenger like Karen Moncrieff's 2006 The Dead Girl, with its coolly horrifying examination of the aftermath of a teenager's murder—an anonymous girl whose naked corpse is distinguished only by the small charm on a gold chain her killer failed to spirit away, echoed in Caitlin's four-leaf clover necklace, which Paul carries like a talisman.
Rage delivers some bizarre flourishes that make no particular sense—heavily accented Swedish actor Peter Stormare as a U.S.-based Irish mafia boss? Really? But the movie’s ace in the hole is a third-act revelation that throws every occurrence up to that point into an entirely different and surprisingly poignant light. You can't say that about the average wham-bam-goodbye-ma'am action movie, and it gives Rage a melancholy bite that transcends the clichés required to get there.

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