PLOT: An ex-gangster (Nicolas Cage) goes for revenge after his teenage daughter is murdered.
REVIEW: RAGE – aka TOKAREV, is a real bummer. After his awards-calibre performance in JOE, Nicolas Cage seemed prime for a comeback, but a recent slew of trailers for increasingly low-rent actioners have suggested that – for whatever reasons – a resurgent career in indie drama is not in the cards for Cage (at least not yet). The title of this movie perfectly sums up how lazy it is. Nicolas Cage in RAGE? Cage RAGE? Sigh.
This is the kind of movie that – had it been made in the nineties – would have been a direct-to-video movie starring a guy like Lorenzo Lamas. It's so paint-by-the-numbers and low-rent that it's actually embarrassing to watch Cage here, as he alternately seems bored, or goes way over the top to at least wring a few unintentional laughs out of the material. If Cage was in danger of going the DTV route with SEEKING JUSTICE and STOLEN, RAGE is an unfortunate further step into a class of movie better left to over-the-hill d-listers like Steven Seagal than a guy like Cage, who still at least has the potential to be great.
We've seen this kind of programmer over-and-over again. Cage plays a tough-guy construction magnate (we know he's tough because he sports mutton-chop sideburns) with a shady past, a loving daughter, and a drop-dead gorgeous young wife (Rachel Nichols). Anyone wanna bet he'll be thrown back into his former life as a thug? A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE this is not, although clearly everyone involved was hoping for something along those lines, with a ludicrous third-act twist that tries to set this up as more than the generic actioner it can't help being. I don't know who's at fault here. Is it director Paco Cabezas, who tries to give the film an arty sheen with slo-mo shootouts and a hilariously melodramatic score (complete with choral solos)? Is it the writers, who must have pitched this as DEATH WISH meets TAKEN (only – ya know – bad)? Or is it Cage himself, who one can only assume took the role because it didn't seem especially taxing, especially compared to something like JOE. Who knows?
Whatever the case, this is a thoroughly depressing film, not because the story is particularly tragic, but rather because how little effort anyone seems to have invested in actually making a good movie. It's like everyone aspired to mediocrity, hoping that they'd be able to skate-by on Cage's name and a few action beats. Even taken as disposable entertainment, RAGE is dull, with virtually no fireworks for the first forty minutes, and then action scenes that feel like leftovers from a bad TV cop show. Poor Danny Glover is wasted in a handful of scenes as a cop who's conveniently forgotten about when private citizen Cage starts running around the city with his two buddies – raking up a body count in the dozens. There's even an icky scene where Cage starts roughing up his wife, only to descend into what I suppose is meant to be a moment of carnal passion lifted out of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE's handbook, but is so clumsily staged, both characters come off as insane. Ugh.
Overall, RAGE is a terribly clumsy actioner, and only worth seeing if you're a die-hard Cage completest. Even still, one can assume this is a movie Cage and his fans will want to ignore, as it ranks with the dregs of his filmography. Hopefully this kind of low-rent production won't become the new norm for Cage, as both he and his many fans (myself included) deserve more.