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‘Rage’ Review: Nicolas Cage Stars in a Feature Length PSA on Gun Violence

By  · Published on July 14th, 2014

RLJ Entertainment

Do you have access to locations in one of our nation’s great Southern states? And connections with a catering company capable of feeding a cast and crew for two maybe three weeks of shooting? And a few thousand dollars (estimated) to pay for it all? If so, then you too can make a Nicolas Cage™ movie starring Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage™!

I kid because I care, and anyway, it’s not as if he’s John Cusack. Yet.

Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) is a respectable, successful developer raising a daughter with his new wife Vanessa (Rachel Nichols), but his seemingly perfect life is thrown into chaos when a night out ends with a visit from the police and the discovery that his daughter Caitlin (Aubrey Peeples) has been abducted. Suspicion immediately falls on men from Paul’s past – a past where he was anything but respectable.

With the help of two old friends Paul goes searching for his daughter, and eventually for justice, but once he opens the door to his old life and the violent secrets it contains he realizes too late that doors work both ways. Meaning just as he can visit the people from his past, the people from his past can visit him. See, it’s a metaphor of sorts. Maybe I should have gone with when Paul closes a door, the past opens a window? Whatever. Paul’s past comes back to haunt him.

Caitlin is hanging out with two guy friends at home when she’s abducted, and we see in flashback how the intruders break in, assault the guys and steal off into the night with the girl over a shoulder. Suspicion immediately falls on old mob connections from Paul’s past, and he gets warnings left and right to leave the investigation to the police. One of those warnings actually comes from the police in the form of another old friend, Det. Peter St. John (Danny Glover). Paul ignores his warnings, just as he does those of his old mob boss, Francis O’Connell (Peter Stormare). Instead he and his two BFFs start kicking ass throughout town in a search for those responsible, but they’re not prepared for who comes kicking back.

Director Paco Cabezas’ first English-language film packs a lot of action and familiar faces into a story that is 90% generic and 10% interesting twist. That’s neither a recipe for success nor failure so the end result is a mild, instantly forgettable diversion that fans of low concept thrills will probably enjoy well enough.

Final ten minutes aside though, the script (by Jim Agnew and Sean Keller) is easily the film’s biggest issue. It sets forth a world where shootouts can occur with impunity – no police response and not a single civilian in sight – and that world is Mobile, AL. The action is consequence-free throughout, at least until the story decides to become all about consequence. It’s also clear from the moment we’re shown the abduction via a flashback as told by one of the girl’s friends that his recollection isn’t going to be entirely accurate. Beyond the paint by numbers action the script also offers more than a few good (and unintentional) laughs including Francis telling Paul that “present situation aside” he has a pretty great life.

Cage is mostly paying the bills here, but in addition to a couple scenes where he gets really, really into it emotionally it’s clear he’s also taking some glee in the fight sequences. The gunplay and fisticuffs are entertaining, as is a well choreographed car chase, but even there the goofiness of the script comes through with cars that explode when T-boned and Paul’s refusal to sideswipe a menacing motorcyclist who continually gets the better of him even though he’s in a muscle car.

Rage is the kind of movie that scratches a particular itch for fans of generic, ‘90s-style action, and it’s not interested in doing anything more than that. Cage’s presence alongside some competent action scenes makes for a fun, albeit forgettable, night in with you and your television.

The Upside: Solid gunplay and car chase; fairly unexpected third act; some unintentional laughs

The Downside: Ridiculous and slight; emotional content wholly unconvincing

On the Side: The film’s original title is Tokarev in reference to the Russian model of handgun at the center of the plot.

Rage is currently available on VOD and in limited theatrical release.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.