Cage Match

On your mark, get set, Rage!

Rage
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Rage

Release year: 2014 Posted November 17, 2014

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.”

Norman R. Augustine

Rage had everything possible going for it: a promising plot, a well intentioned cast and crew, and a character built for Nicolas Cage to guide into instability in the wake of a personal tragedy. Unfortunately, all of this potential was squandered with shoddy writing and unremarkable filmmaking. The finished product is accordingly boring and bad.

Formerly titled Tokarev (a name that was a bit on the nose, more on that later), Rage is at its core a revenge thriller. Nicolas Cage plays Paul Maguire, a reformed gangster who became a father, husband, and construction foreman. When he leaves his teenage daughter at home one night, she disappears and turns up dead a few days later. Maguire sets out to avenge her death, abandoning the law-abiding, family man persona he developed and embracing the cruel, brutal inner criminal he had long suppressed.

Once his quest to find his daughter’s killer has set off a citywide gang war, Maguire learns she wasn’t killed by rival criminals from his checkered past, but by her boyfriend, accidentally, while he was futzing around with one of Maguire’s old guns—a Tokarev. Unfortunately, Rage lacks the grace to build to this twist in a satisfying way. Like a community college philosophy major, it plods along awkwardly and without direction. The outcome lands somewhere between predictable and cringeworthy. It doesn’t seem director Paco Cabezas could decide what kind of movie he was making.

Although this movie initially seemed like a low-rent, Nic Cage version of Taken, guaranteed to end with the recovery of his daughter and a loving embrace, the plot seized my interest when the taken girl turned out to have been killed. I expected either an 8mm-style chase through the seedy underbelly of something, or a bloodbath of revenge like in Kick-Ass. Instead, the director went with a watered-down combination of both. You neither learn enough about the character’s horrible past nor see enough of his present good deeds to feel much of anything when he falls from the grace of his reformed life. But you can’t say Nic didn’t at least try to make you feel.

Reaching deep into his bag of tricks, Cage delivers as powerful a performance as he can. The movie’s themes of mindless revenge and misguided wrath give Nic a solid platform to work from. His performance outshines the dialogue, which is stupid at best. If this film had more of an Alan Ball flair it would have been better. The character focus was missing entirely, which is sad because Cage turned out a great character to focus on. This kind of revenge thriller material is well worn and well suited for Cage. This should have been a home run.

Cage’s supporting cast in Rage is flawless. It’s easy to see how he could do so much with so little. With Danny Glover, Peter Stormare, and Cage’s own son providing backup for Nic, it’s a shame the director didn’t go full-tilt with the merciless slaying from the beginning of act two forward. Ultimately, the viewer’s time is wasted. Without any of the epic violence or epic character focus typical of either genre, Rage will forever be consigned to mediocrity.

Movie?
Uninspired, trite
Nic Cage’s acting?
The only redeeming quality
Did his performance make the movie worse?
No, it was quite compelling