Movie Review ~ Rage (2021)

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The Facts
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Synopsis: After a violent home invasion leaves him in a coma and his wife deeply traumatized, a mild-mannered husband awakens to find out that one of the attackers is still on the loose. As they try to move on with their lives, one day his nearly-despondent wife spots the attacker, opening up a twisted tale of brutal revenge where all isn’t as it seems.

Stars: Matt Theo, Hayley Beveridge, Richard Norton, Tottie Goldsmith, Natasha Maymon, Melissa Barlas, Tony Kotsopoulos, Jasper Bagg, Nic Stevens, Stephen Degenaro, Marcus Merkoski

Director: John Balazs

Rated: NR

Running Length: 143 minutes

TMMM Score: (4/10)

Review: Often when offered a movie to screen I’ll do a small amount of research before agreeing to take it up for coverage and the new Australian-made thriller Rage seemed to be a title that spoke for itself based on the plot description.  So I didn’t dig deep enough to notice that its run time was well over two hours and by the time I learned that, when preparing my pre-notes before settling in to watch the sprawling film, it was too late to turn back.  I actually thought I had read it wrong at first and perhaps instead of 143 minutes it actually was 1 hour and 43 minutes.  In actuality, upon further reflection now that I’ve completed the watch, I think 103 minutes of material is likely the most Rage could conceivably argue it possessed.

Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve decided that I can take the brunt of any bad movie as long as it knows when to pack it in and wrap things up.  There’s nothing worse than having to sit through a film that’s so blind to it’s own excess that it continues to obliterate itself, ringing its own death knell long before the credits have mercifully run.   Rage is one such film and it’s extra disappointing to say that because there are parts of the movie that I enjoyed for a brief moment in time.  It was only after the pace has been dragged to a halt yet again and the energy sucked from the screen that I felt my temperature rise as my interest waned.

Opening on a shot that appears to give away the ending of the film (I will neither confirm nor deny this), Rage starts off decent enough, asking us to lean forward into the lives of Noah (Matt Theo) and Madeline (Hayley Beveridge) Tate, a young attractive couple from Melbourne that have seemed to hit a lull in their marriage.  She’s pulling away from physical intimacy without giving him any indication as to what’s wrong, leaving him perplexed and eventually falling into the arms of Sophia (Natasha Maymon) a young co-worker he shares a connection with.  He’s with Sophia later that evening when two masked men we’ve seen watching the Tate home earlier in the morning break in and commit a heinous set of crimes against Madeline and her sister.  Feeling guilty and wanting to try again with his wife, Noah returns early, interrupting the assailants and suffering injuries that put him in a coma for the next month.

Though the film jumps ahead at this point to our seeing Noah awake and desperately searching for his wife, director John Balazs rather quickly cuts back to the night of the attack and lets us follow what Madeline goes through during the month her husband is incapacitated and one of her attackers is still on the loose.  Beginning the healing process alone, she meets with a psychiatrist (Tottie Goldsmith) who happens to be the wife of the lead detective working her case (Richard Norton).  When Noah does wake up, a fissure has occurred between he and his wife that can’t be undone immediately.  It’s only when Madeline believes she has seen her assailant that Noah feels he has a chance to make up for lost time, but are both of them strong enough to do what they feel should be done to make things right between them and help Madeline in her healing process?

I couldn’t help but wonder how much of Michael J. Kospiah’s screenplay was filmed as-is or how much of it was altered as it made it way to the screen.  The scope of the film seems to be quite epic in nature, with a great number of characters linking in throughout but not having much to say or do.  At certain times, it feels like Balzas wants to steer his film into the revenge category and early scenes of gruesome violence apparently were fake outs seeing that Rage gets progressively soapier.  Yes, strangely enough, it begins to morph into a relationship drama showing us the inner workings of the marriage between Noah and Madeline and it didn’t feel like the events leading up to this sea change supported the shift.  Nor does it feel like the target audience of Rage would want numerous scenes of Noah tearfully pleading (more like nasally whining) for his wife to speak to him.  Additionally, it’s not as if the scenes are acted that well either.  Though Theo and Beveridge do their best to rise above this, the lack of chemistry is instantly recognizable and so the majority of the film is spent agreeing that maybe this is a marriage that shouldn’t last.

The person to blame here is Balzas because not only was he the director of Rage but, as I found out at the end, he was also the editor.  Ah!  There!  It makes sense!  That’s the problem.  At 143 minutes, Rage feels like the first cut that was offered to the studio.  In other words, it’s the one the studio offers notes on and is eventually trimmed to a more palatable length supported by the scenes that work and the scenes that don’t.  There are a number of passages included that are completely unnecessary, from small shots of wordless car rides, to full sequences of the same argument between the married couple being repeated over again.  The most egregious of all is Norton’s first appearance as the police detective.  Walking in sloooooooooow mooooooootion down the street leading up to the Tate’s home and then, when he blessedly arrives, speaking out loud what he thinks were the events of the night (which are accurate) for the other officers.  Why is this scene in there?  The audience just saw the crime being committed so we don’t need to see this lengthy recap, nor do we need to be assured the other police representatives will be told about it either.  We sort of just assume that will happen.  There are too many of these nonsense scenes to point out but it’s almost worth watching the film to see how precious Balzas was with the footage he shot.  There’s no way on Earth this movie should be hour and forty minutes, let alone fifty minutes longer than that.

I’m allotting four stars (out of 10) to the movie because while they struggle with the amount of material (seriously, it’s a mountain to go through), the actors carry off their roles with an individual strong style that’s easy to acquit.  Looking like an Aussie John Krasinski, Theo overdoes it with the dramatics in the scenes with his costars but is much better when he has nothing to say at all and can just brood in silence.  While she’s playing a role that has some seriously difficult notes to play, I wish Beveridge wasn’t such an easy victim when it gets down to brass tacks and continues to be victimized for the duration – there are hints that Madeline might have some ulterior motives for her actions (again, not saying if that’s true or not) but Beveridge has a hard time selling us on, well, anything…good or bad.  Looking like he’s had a few too many surgeries to keep his eye area looking young, Norton has the proper demeanor for the figure of authority but his relationship with a former partner turned private eye feels less well conceived than the director and writer think.

I could get behind an American remake of this, but only if a new writer could shore up the script a bit more while also adding a hair more intrigue around the mystery at the core of the story.  I think there is potential in Rage but also that no one involved went far enough into the subject or character to truly sweep us away into the story.  That leaves us with an average report of surface level performances and pedestrian direction that is further unsupported by the director’s own shoddy editing.  Now there’s something to rage over.