Directed by Chris Witherspoon
Duel was Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut and did to the road terror subgenre what he accomplished later for summer blockbusters with Jaws. It launched many clones throughout the decades that pretty much follow tSpielberg's formula to the tee that creates an experience that is more retread than treading into new waters. Along comes filmmaker Chris Witherspoon’s Rage which attempts to emulate another road terror flick, but thankfully adds many layers to the story and depth to its characters.
Leaving behind his sweet wife Crystal (Audrey Walker) in the suburbs for the day, Dennis Twist (Rick Crawford) drives into the city to end his affair with his mistress Dana (Anna Lodej). Once Dennis arrives downtown, a mysterious and helmet-sporting biker (Witherspoon) secretly tails him to his rendezvous and watches the proceedings. Dennis admits to loving his wife and tells Dana that he is ending their tryst. At first, she is rightfully furious until she finally succumbs to his request. A red flag goes up when she asks if her ex is bothering him, because he will be tossed back in jail if he causes any trouble at all, but Dennis informs her that her former beau has nothing to do with it.
Soon after they part ways for good, the biker starts to harass Dennis on the city streets. At first, the threats are harmless, such as the biker zooming by Dennis’ car in his bike to give him a jolt. Then, it gets worse as the biker carves up his car with a combat knife. When Dennis meets up with his friend, who is well aware of Dennis ending his affair that day, for lunch shortly afterward, Dennis explains how he believes that he is being harassed by Dana’s ex –flame because he found out about their relationship. Once he heads back to his car, the attacks escalate to the point where Dennis begins to fear for his life and tries to figure out how to thwart his would be assailant while keeping his secret affair buried in the process.
Rage is a film not like many others of its kind with a great deal of time spent in prolonged road attacks. In fact, there is a great deal of action that takes place on foot which builds more tension than in any of the driving scenes. Witherspoon integrates the fact that our protagonist is actually a very flawed character and toys with the audience’s emotions. In one sense, you feel Dennis is receiving exactly what he deserves for his infidelity to a woman who has always been his main supporter in life. Yet another part of you sees that he realizes he made a human mistake and wants redemption after realizing his wrongdoings. He is not just “some guy trying to get home” like you usually see. Rather, he is a man who could end his plight in a heartbeat, but is too worried about hiding his sins to do the right thing. The real victim in all of this is not Dennis at all, but his wife who is unaware that he violated their trust, so how you feel about Dennis throughout the film is a conundrum. It is these certain aspects of the film that are what push Rage away from the pack.
Filmed on a meager budget, Rage focuses more on story than road battles. Witherspoon acknowledges that his film is more tribute to Duel than rip-off, as evident in the scene where characters are discussing Duel in a car repair shop. That aside, his film stands on its own with an original story paying homage to Spielberg’s 1971 film. Much like Dennis, the film has its flaws but is most certainly worth a look.
|3 out of 5 Creeper Santas|