March 22, 2021 Rage (Movie Review)
There has been a nice stream of quality Australian Horror and Thriller films over the past several years: 2011’s Snowtown, 2014’s The Babadook, and 2018’s The Nightingale are just a few that captured audiences worldwide. The latest is Rage, released to VOD in North America and Australia on February 23rd via Gravitas Ventures. Brought to us by Aussie Director John Balazs (Fallen 2014, Dancer 2016), it straddles the line between a familiar Revenge Thriller and bleak police procedural. While it boasts some strong performances, it never quite lives up to what it builds on and is hurt by an excessive runtime and, oddly, a score that tries too hard.
The story is set in Melbourne where married couple Noah (Matt Theo: Night Shift 2018, My Life is Murder series) and Maddie (Hayley Beveridge: Tallboy 2014, Cat Sick Blues 2015) reside. Things are not all rosy in their household, as Noah is cheating with his co-worker Sophia (Natasha Maymon: Spencer 2020). Bemoaning her rocky marriage, Maddie is home with her sister Rebecca (Nic Stevens) when two masked intruders enter and proceed to kill Rebecca and sexually assault Maddie. Noah arrives during the invasion and manages to fight off the attackers, killing one but is himself seriously injured in the process.
Noah is comatose for a month. After he wakes in the hospital, we are introduced to detective John Bennett (Richard Norton: Mad Max: Fury Road 2015, Spartacus series). He and his team are still looking for the yet-to-be-identified second perpetrator, and thus he questions Noah for anything he can remember. Maddie, meanwhile, has been in a near catatonic state since her traumatic experience and is even distant with her husband. This is the dual narrative that Rage attempts to balance – exploring the depths of trauma and love, and an equally gritty murder mystery. Unfortunately it does neither overly well.
The main problem is the runtime. This is a near two-and-a-half- hour film that drags from the moment Noah wakes up; that is, most of its length. The drama between the couple, as well as Maddie’s trauma, are not meant to be exciting, but this would need the foil of the detective side to balance out the drama with action and thrills. It does not accomplish this, however, as Norton’s considerable talent is all but wasted in a dull slog of a whodunit. Maddie and Noah’s progress is likewise slow and unrewarding. The script resists its natural route of setting Maddie’s trauma by making order out of disorder, instead relying on derivative and overly familiar plot elements the audience will see coming a mile away.
Another noticeable problem is the score. A great score will truly elevate a film, and even a mediocre one could sneak by without getting noticed much, but a bad one will drag a film down. Such is the case with Kai Chan Lim’s work here, which is way too up front and makes the mistake of trying to be the star. It does work sometimes, such as in the home invasion and a few other scenes, but is horribly overdramatic and changes the tone of the film at the worst of times, rendering what is meant to be serious drama into almost cringe-worthy moments.
The performances are all good. Beveridge is certainly the strongest and makes Maddie a much more tangible character than the rest of the movie wants her to be. Her emotions are palpable and her recovery is a story the audience will want to get behind. Great as she is, however, she can only elevate the film so much. Theo is good, though not quite as resonant. Like Norton, who is also good, there’s something about the script that hobbles his ability to bring the character to life. If this wasn’t such a convoluted story they’d both be more memorable than they are.
Ultimately, Rage is weighed down by its length and incohesive plot; it simply tries to do too much. This story would have been much better suited to a single-season series, where the characters can really flesh out their journeys over the course of 8-10 hours. Packing all of what it wants into an overly long film doesn’t work for anyone, and audiences will feel every minute of its 143 minute runtime. The score is also a sticking point and is an example of what not to do with a soundtrack. All in all, Rage disappoints amid a few bright spots and is best left for a rental on a rainy day. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Rage 2 out of 5 stars.