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Hipster Holy Grail: The Rage (1997)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 5,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

If you want to watch something stupid, needlessly cruel, and kinda boring all at once, check out The Rage.

My Rating: 1 / 5 (Workman Bad Movie)

The Plot Summary

I hate movies like this. They're so tedious that I end up not having a lot to say, so I feel like my write-ups end up being little more than a bored plot recap followed by me saying you shouldn't watch it.  My apologies in advance... hopefully next week I'll have something more fun to talk about.

The Rage opens with the villain, Dacy (Gary Busey), driving recklessly on a remote highway while his girlfriend tries to make out with his neck.  He's whooping and cackling and being a total nut bar the way you want Busey to be, and then they see some campers hanging out by an RV.  Dacy pulls over and he and his girlfriend rough them up as a prelude to murder.  This all happens in the span of like 45 seconds, by the way.

Cut to FBI Agent McCord (Kristen Cloke), a big-lipped profiler who's fresh from FBI school and ready to cut her teeth on a big case.  She's been assigned to work with Agent Travis (Lorenzo Lamas), who's notoriously sexy and dangerous.  McCord's lady friend talks about how she wants to sleep with Travis and asks her to give him her phone number, which is pretty much the high point of characterization for women in this movie.

We cut to Agent Travis in action.  He's laying low on a sting operation, but somebody blows the FBI's cover and soon he's in a high-speed chase with a suspect in a blue van.  The blue van dude crashes through a bunch of crap, including the bleachers at a rodeo, and then erupts in a giant explosion and dies.  Travis is pissed off because he was their only lead on Dacy, who he's been trying to catch for some time.

McCord meets up with Travis in the aftermath of the explosion.  They have a terse introduction - the usual "I'm your new partner" / "I don't need a partner" / "You're getting one anyway" / "Would you like to see my penis" exchange.  Their boss, Taggart (Roy Scheider), yells at Travis and browbeats him into accepting his assignment with McCord.

Then McCord uses FBI magic to figure out where to pick up Dacy's trail, so she and Travis go to a campground to sniff around and see what they can find.  This is also where we learn a little more about Dacy's background, which is glossed over so curtly that you barely get a chance to appreciate its heinousness.  Apparently, Dacy is responsible for a string of brutal murders in which he and several accomplices have tortured, raped, and butchered innocent people.  Who knew.

You know what, I'm not doing this justice.  The way they just casually throw Dacy's crimes out there is abhorrent.  It's like finding out about some ridiculous clause in a recent update to Google's terms and conditions:

"Welcome back to GMail!  Here's your new messages!"

"Cool.  Thanks, Google!  Hmm, got a message from my mom, need to track down that order...."

"By the way, here's an ad for TurboTax."

"Uh-huh, I got it already. Thanks anyway, Google.  Let's see, here's that email from Jeff...."

"Oh, and here's a gaping anus.  So, would you like to use ProFlowers today?"

"WHOA!  What the fuck, Google?"

"Not a fan of ProFlowers?  We can also hook you up with Teleflora."

"No, no, what's with the goatse?"

"That's your new background.  So, have you considered switching to Verizon?"

"Why is there an anus on my screen?"

"That's just what we do now. Buy some Viagra!"

What I'm saying is, you can't just put down "serial torturer/rapist" as a byline.  But The Rage does it, anyway.

Travis and McCord go undercover as campers and have a run-in with one of Dacy's friends, Bobby Joe (Dell Yount), who tries to run them off the road with his logging truck.  They just barely survive and regroup. McCord figures they need to lure Dacy out of hiding so they can confront him directly. The best way to do this? Go on TV to insult Dacy and repeat multiple times that he's impotent.

This does the trick, and soon Dacy strikes while Travis and McCord are undercover again. He briefly abducts McCord and assaults her, but Travis saves her before Dacy can drive away.  Later, in another classless and blasé scene, McCord reveals that Dacy fingered her for a bit before Travis saved her.  Having added some sleaziness without actually advancing the plot or given depth to anything, the movie pats itself on the back and promptly forgets about this.  Par for the course, I guess.

Anyway, Taggart is pissed off at Travis and McCord because he thinks they've either gone too far or otherwise mishandled the case or what-the-hell-ever.  He tries to pull them off the assignment and suspend Travis.  Naturally, Travis beats up Taggart so he and McCord can keep working.  They team up with a bored Sheriff to go back to work.

Eventually they track down Dacy's headquarters in the woods, where he has filmed a manifesto video of some sort.  It turns out Dacy, his girlfriend, and Bobby Joe are all part of a wide network of serial killers.  Dacy's leading a cult of disgruntled Vietnam veterans / ex-CIA operatives who hate the government and have decided to strike back against it by randomly raping, torturing, and killing people.

Say... you remember how in The Rock, Ed Harris was mad because his buds didn't get good funerals, so he decided to kidnap 80 tourists at Alcatraz and aim viral warheads at San Francisco?  This is almost as stupid a plot.  What's with ex-soldiers coming up with such inane and shitty plans to get attention?  At least The Rage has the decency not to pretend that Dacy's got a noble quest.  He's just an asshole.  (Y'hear that Ed Harris's character?  Man, twenty years later and I've still got a beef with that movie.)

Anyway, Dacy's cult abandons their HQ and leaves behind the video for the FBI to find, then booby-traps the place with explosives.  The bombs go off, but Travis and McCord get away in time.  Through more plot magic, they find out that Dacy's planning to attack some government-sponsored camping trip for high-ranking military types.  Taggart shows up to yell at Travis some more, and then eventually we get to the climactic showdown.

Dacy shoots up some people at the military camp / jamboree, Travis and McCord come by and shoot up some of Dacy's men, and then there's a dumb miniature battle.  McCord gets kidnapped again, so Travis and Dacy have a speedboat chase.  Travis kills Dacy, and then we find out that Taggart was involved in Dacy's cult somehow, so Travis is forced to kill Taggart, and now everyone's dead except for Travis and McCord.

Who, by the way, love each other.  Apparently.

The movie ends with title cards explaining that Travis and McCord went on to get married and now teach new FBI recruits about serial killers.  They're having a baby next year.  Good for them.  Nice way to end your serial rapist movie, you asshole.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

Sadly, I don't have much praise to dole out this week.  The Rage was a frustrating experience.

It has a whole smorgasbord of problems: bad acting, uninteresting characters, predictable plot beats, shitty music, deplorable attitudes toward women and sexual abuse, et cetera.  But I think the thing that really killed it for me was the pacing.

It's a hard thing to get across in words.  You don't really describe pacing, you just feel it.  When something's too slow, you get bored.  When it's too fast, you don't connect.  Either way, you end up not caring.  What you need is something in that Goldilocks zone in the middle.

But here's the thing... that Goldilocks zone?  It's not particularly tough to find.  We're not talking about some amazing feat of storytelling.  You just have to not be totally shitty.

The Rage is all over the map.  The first ten minutes of the movie are so fast and breathless that you can barely get a sense of time or place.  Between Busey's first freak-out and the introduction of McCord, there's a total of maybe three minutes of screen time.  And then it cuts from that to a six-minute chase scene that's barely related to the rest of the movie only so it can introduce Travis.

In other words, it literally spends twice as much time on a totally arbitrary action scene as it does on two of the main characters, who I don't give a shit about and will continue to not give a shit about for the next hour and twenty.

That opening chase scene was so clumsily inserted, I was actually expecting it to be a fake-out.  Like Travis would crash into a wall and then an alarm would sound, and somebody would go, "Goddammit, Travis, how many times have I told you?  You need to use the McKinney technique!" and then the camera would zoom out to reveal that they were all in some ridiculously elaborate training simulator.  I didn't realize it was a real chase scene until the van they were chasing caught on fire and exploded.

Bad pacing does that to a movie.  Nothing feels real.  Nothing ever gels.

Even when the movie has a good idea, the pacing ruins it.  Look at the sequence where Travis is being chased by the logging truck and gets stuck underneath it.  That's a good setup for something clever and exciting.  But what does The Rage do?  It keeps cutting back and forth between the same five or six angles without anything actually happening for five minutes.  The scene goes from exciting to laughably bad to ass-numbing.  To be clear: this is a scene where a logging truck drives over a sedan and cuts it in half while two people are trapped inside, and it's boring.

In short, I did not like this movie.

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

Not a lot.  It's one of those mid-'90s Miramax / Dimension Films releases where they bought some low-budget thing and repackaged it, which counts for very little since they saturated the market so much.  But it was directed by Sidney J. Furie, who's had a prolific and eclectic career, ranging from possible future HHG entry Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living In New York to the much-maligned Rodney Dangerfield classic, Ladybugs.  Also, Gary Busey.  Between the two of them, and a tiny obscurity bonus for having under 500 IMDb ratings, this is worth about 25 hipster cred.

Where You Can Watch

The Rage is currently available to stream on Netflix.