Movie Review: Rage

In 2010, College Humor made a popular video on YouTube: Nicolas Cage’s Agent. It was a video satirizing Nicolas Cage’s ability or rather inability to say no to a role because it seems like Cage takes any role he can get his hands on. The video wasn’t funny because of its acting. It wasn’t funny because of the fake movie titles. It was funny because it was true.

Nicolas Cage seems to be in everything these days, which leaves us to conclude that he just accepts everything offered to him.

Since beginning his career in 1981, Cage has starred in 77 films, including 22 in the last five years. The only actor I can think of that can come close to matching that five-year total is Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson has made 24, but it’s worth noting that Samuel L. Jackson has starred as Nick Fury in almost all of the Marvel films, a total of five films where he’s played the same character and been on the screen for a short amount of time.

Nicolas Cage has made only one sequel and that was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Let’s not talk about that.

Nicolas Cage seems to have lost all standards he may have had for himself and perhaps that is because of his tax problems, but he was one of the highest-paid actors in 2009 according to Forbes, rounding out the top five at $40 million. He had six films hit theaters during 2009 and 2010.

However, while he makes the money, he’s not getting the ratings.

Aside from Kick-Ass (7.8 IMDB, 76% Rotten Tomatoes, 66% Metacritic), none of his other films have reached a 7.0 on IMDB and none have reached a 70% on Metacritic.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans received a 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and was hailed by critics. I’ve never seen it, so I can’t judge how good or bad the film is, but I will say this: I’m unsure how I can put faith in a scoring system that gave the same score to The Hangover and Gran Torino (79%), when the former was so dumb and the latter was so underrated.

All of this prefacing goes to say that when you see Nicolas Cage on the cover of a movie, no one’s going to blame you if you decide to turn around and walk away.

I quickly googled Rage before I hit the play button on Netflix. A 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 28% on Metacritic is what greeted me.

Watching it, I saw why.

Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) is a successful business man with a construction empire. His daughter’s kidnapped. Why? Because we learn that Paul used to be part of the Irish mob and only after stealing a large chunk of change from the Russian gang did he finally leave the life.

There’s no call for ransom. Paul fears his past has caught up with him. To save his daughter, he’ll have to revert back to his past life and the skills he acquired during that time.

Paul sounds a fair amount like someone named Bryan. Who’s Bryan you may ask? Just wait. I’ll keep giving you hints.

Both directors’ first names begin with the letter “p”.

Both films involve a father trying to save their kidnapped daughter.

Both films have a running time of about 90 minutes.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Rage is Taken. Without Liam Neeson. And Luc Besson.

If you look at Taken from a neutral standpoint, it should never have come close to being the money-maker that it was. There have been far too many movies about a father trying to save their kidnapped child. Ingenuity does not spawn on such a desolate canvas. The resources have been consumed by the previous mimes’ visitations. Yet Luc Besson, probably France’s greatest export in the last 50 years, made it work. A resonating script with Liam Neeson tearing apart foreign countries embattled the hostage cliché and won with a first-round knockout and a $226.8 million cash prize.

Rage does not fare so well in its bout.

I find the boxing metaphor to be a fair portrayal of a hostage film. The themes of thievery, loss and desperation are big-board headlines for hostage films and trying to utilize those same concepts while trying to differentiate your film from the rest of the genre is very difficult. The genre (the boxer) will not stand in his corner and wait for you (the challenger) to come to him. He’s going to come out swinging and pounding on you because he thinks he knows what you got: nothing. He thinks you’re just like every other chump he’s fought and flattened. He doesn’t expect a rival and why should he? How many successful hostage movies have really been made? How many times has he really lost? Four, five times out of how many? A thousand? Hard to bet against odds like that.

Yet, the genre’s tragic flaw is the same as many others: pride. His pride will allow him to tire himself early in the first round, allowing you to ignite a counterattack and get back in the trenches, but you still have to fight your way there. He’s taken innumerable punches during his career, comparable to Rocky Balboa’s punishment and will not be worn down easily. If you want to survive, you need to unleash the bombs…now.

To add yet more support to this rather elaborate metaphor, it’s worth noting most hostage films struggle to graze the 90-minute mark let alone two hours. That’s because the challenger can’t stay in the ring with the champ for ten rounds. He’s got three rounds to make it happen. If the bell sounds at the end of the third round and both are still standing, it’s over. The champ has won.

Taken‘s knockout punch was Liam Neeson’s magnetizing monologue with his daughter’s captor over the phone, easily one of the best monologues of the last five years. If anyone in the audience was not already chained to their chair by that point in the film, they were when Neeson shut his phone.

Rage has no such chain. If Rage had a chain, it would be a Christmas streamer that you could rip with your pinkie.

To begin with, there’s no story prior to the conflict. I could open up Netflix, select Rage and scroll along the timeline until I found when the kidnapping occurred, but I’m not going to because it’s irrelevant. Whether it was because Rage completely neglected Cage’s Maguire or they simply didn’t manage their time correctly really doesn’t matter here. The first round is over and the champ doesn’t even bother to sit down for his water break. He continues standing, like a medieval knight offended by the fighting skills of the local stable boy.

Maguire assumes that his daughter’s disappearance is because of his shady past and that the Russian mob is responsible. He gets his two best buds to help him find out what happened to his daughter, but they don’t go about it the way you would think. Rather than act like a private detective, Maguire picks up guns and knives and starts killing people, thinking that will determine who is behind the killing.

How? How exactly will dead people answer your questions? Was Davy Jones wrong? Do dead men tell tales after all? They don’t? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. This plot diversion doesn’t make any sense nor is it productive for the characters, those involved with the production of Rage, or the audience. What happened to the characters? They weren’t glossed over. They were buried ten feet in the ground, the area was encased in concrete and they put a skyscraper on top of it. Director Paco Cabezas flat-out forgot.

Given that, I don’t blame Cage for this forlorn venture. I blame him for taking the job and continuing to take such roles, but not for his performance here. Cage’s ability to overdramatize and exhibit uninhibited enthusiasm is never released aside from one haphazard instance. The acting is flat, no doubt aided by the vanilla script, striving for no noticeable goal aside from the standstill pose of a mannequin.

Yet, undeterred by mediocre peers, Rage managed suspense. I was not held by anything. I did not break my streamer, but rest assured I could have whenever I wanted to. Perhaps it was because I planned to review Rage, but a small morsel of me wanted to know how this ended. I’m talking about crumbs here, a nibble worth, but it was enough I guess.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (American BeautyGone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the Apes)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(SnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012))

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (House at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead SnowRubberHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (ZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage Point)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an Empire)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Rage: 52.

Rage could avoid a knockout, but its defeat was certain. It was going to lose. Still, losing in a decision, even if it was one of the easiest decisions the judges ever had to hand down, was preferred to tasting the mat. The bell for the third round rang and the challenger ran right into the champ’s uppercut, knocked out cold in a hit that was comparable to Jadaveon Clowney’s infamous smackdown.

The third act of Rage was a total cop-out, stealing the molecule of sugar that was left by the Grinch when he raided the houses. Once again revealing the greediness of Hollywood’s pockets, Rage makes me want to send a pair of notes to Hollywood executives. One pleading them to remember why they entered the business: to make movies that mattered. The second, a hate-filled message cursing them all for allowing greed to override their passion for cinema. Each year, we get less “real” films and more wastes of time. It’s unacceptable.

Quick sidenote, Cage needs to star in a film called “No Man”, a spin-off of Jim Carrey’s Yes Man. Learn to say no, Cage.

Merry Christmas!

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Rage

  1. Nostra says:

    Cage just needs the money I guess (wasn’t it because of a divorce?). I used to check out everything he was in, but he’s been in so many bad ones the last couple of years, I’ve been a bit more careful.

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