From its very outset ‘Rage’ is set-up as a fairly ordinary revenge gangster flick, but it slowly devolves into something different, though this transformation arrives with mixed results. Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Maguire, an ex-gangster who has become a successful businessman since quitting the mob to go legitimate. When his daughter is abducted from their house his world is turned upside down, and he finds himself forced to face the sins of his past. With the help of his old crew, Paul sets out to get her back by any means necessary, once again delving back into the violent life he left behind. What he finds when he starts back down this road of wanton death and destruction is that his debts owed to the past must be paid one way or another.
The kidnapped child and dangerous father trope has been making its way through Hollywood for years, from 1996’s ‘Ransom’ to 2008’s ‘Taken,’ the variations have been nearly exhausted. ‘Rage’ does work to find a niche in the genre, but despite some uniqueness in the story it mainly comes off generic and deflated. Large swaths of the plot feel like their importance was secondary to the inevitable, and slightly predictable, plot twist. At its worst, ‘Rage’ comes off like a bad remake of a Japanese revenge flick (it’s not), and at its best, it’s an enjoyable, yet generic, action movie.
There are attempts to add some depth and foreshadowing to the film, including an overuse of the quote “the die is cast,” famously written by Julius Caesar to describe the inevitability of his civil war against Rome once he had crossed the Rubicon. Despite its constant mention, and some very blatant discussions about the meaning of the quote, the film still maintains a rather superficial status throughout. Rather than spending so much wasted energy on these storytelling elements, it would have been nice if the plot had done more to cement and explore the relationship between Paul and his daughter. The writers may have felt that it would be a given that a father would do anything for his daughter, but a bit more depth into the familial relationship would give the audience a chance to relate with Paul in ways that the film just doesn’t provide.
The supporting cast is strong, but they aren’t given a lot to work with. Danny Glover is good as an older detective familiar with Paul Maguire and sympathetic to his case, but this sympathy often goes too far to be believable. After a decent car chase scene with numerous explosions, including a police vehicle, Paul is apprehended after running his car directly into a waiting police roadblock, only to be released by Glover’s character moments later, with a whispered vote of confidence and a weak urging to just go legit again. The relationship between the two men is interesting, but the film does little to explore or explain it, leaving only an odd plot hole and an even weirder scene.
Nicolas Cage’s tendency to star in almost anything makes it difficult to judge a film’s quality just by his involvement, luckily ‘Rage’ turns out to be a pretty enjoyable, though extremely flawed, film. There is definitely something here for fans of the gangster and action film genres, though not all will be happy with the ending. ‘Rage’ attempts to break conventions and be something more than a revenge film, yet its successes are less rewarding and entertaining than they would have been if the film had maintained its original identity.
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