Year:  2010
Director:  Christopher Witherspoon
Cast:  Rick Crawford, Audrey Walker, Christopher Witherspoon, Anna Lodej, Richard Topping

While on a downtown excursion to meet his mistress and end his extramarital affair, Dennis Twist (Rick Crawford)  unknowingly angers a mysterious motorcyclist.  Though seemingly innocent and annoying at first, the dark figure increases his attacks on Dennis, resulting in a day long game of cat and mouse that ends in a violent and grueling showdown.

In one of the film's only light hearted scenes, two men in an auto repair shop debate their fondness for Spielberg.  "How can you claim to be a fan of Spielberg, but have never seen Duel!" one of the men asks the other.  Ironically, character Dennis Twist sits listening, having just suffered an life-threatening attack from the mysterious cyclist who has been stalking him on the city streets all morning.  It is perhaps this moment more than any other in Rage where the viewer realizes that he/she are in the hands of a filmmaker who knows exactly what his vision is and exactly what he needs to do to accomplish it.  Because while Rage plays out like a more urbanized version of Spielberg's Dual, Witherspoon is able to create his own unique, ethereal style and, in the process, creates a tense, highly effective film.  First and foremost, in spite of its modest budget, Rage is a taut, extremely well crafted film that takes full advantage of the urban setting to create tension and suspense.  The action comes at a brisk pace and virtually every shot and bit of dialogue in the film serve at progressing the plot; there are no unnecessary scenes that exist solely to pad the run time.  The story itself is similarly tight, and once the stalking starts, there are enough red-herrings for who could be behind the black helmet and leather motorcycle gear already established to keep the viewer intrigued and wondering who exactly is the motorcyclist, and more importantly, why the relentless attack on Dennis?  The cat and mouse scenes are impressively done, particularly a thrilling scene in which Dennis retreats to a parking garage to hide, where some clever plotting creates some edge of the seat suspense.  When the film reaches its climax, it forcefully switches tone, becoming more sinister and brutal than than anything witnessed in the earlier scenes.  For instance, there is a scene seems to be a wink one of the more brutal scenes in Scarface involving a shower and a chainsaw.  And while not overtly gory or violent, these scenes are filmed in a manner than will garner a reaction from the viewer, particularly a lengthy rape scene.  Dennis, though not perfect, has become a character who the audience can sympathize with (though the question of why he just doesn't go to the police comes to mind more than once), and it is difficult to witness the brutal and seemingly senseless unraveling of his life at the hands of the mysterious motorcyclist.  Director Witherspoon creates an all to real villain who is relentless, yet utterly realistic in the constant pursuit of Dennis.  What plays out is not far-fetched, and in a day and age where road rage is an extremely common occurrence, it is not impossible to believe something like this has happened at some point.

But while Rage is truly a good film with little to complain about, there are a few minor issues that may leave a sour taste in some mouths.  First, the ending of the film may be a tad too vague for some who were expecting a twist in the resolution.  This is not to say that the film does not end appropriately--it does--it's the explanation and motive that may leave some feeling unsatisfied.  More problematic, though, is the heavy-handedness at which the filmmaker tries to reinforce the film's theme, relating to karma, to the viewer through several flashbacks of previous scenes and bits of dialogue as almost a means of saying "hey, viewer...remember when the character said THIS or when the character did THAT?  Well, look at how it applies!"  Generally, if a film that effectively establishes its theme does not have to hammer it into the viewers head multiple times.

However, even with these minor, nit-picky issues, Rage is a extremely well made independent film.  The pacing will keep the viewer glued to the screen, the performances are realistic, and the villain is certainly memorable.  In fact, after viewing Rage, you may just never look at that motorcyclist who pulls up next to you at the stoplight the same way again.

Fright Meter Grade:

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