by Brandon Thomas
Revenge tales are a messy affair. Forget the buckets of blood you’re liable to wade through (metaphorically – of course). No, vengeance cinema revels in discomfort – the more emotionally taxing, the better. Put all of that together in a two-and-a-half-hour movie, and you’ve got something that’s pretty hard to sit through.
That’s what director John Balazs’s film Rage delivers.
Noah (Matt Theo) and Madeline’s (Hayley Beveridge) marriage is already on shaky ground when we meet them. Petty grievances populate their interactions, and the physical component of their relationship is all but forgotten. Their bond is forever fractured when a violent home invasion leaves Noah comatose, Madeline traumatized, and another family member dead. As the two begin to pick up the pieces, the realization that one of their attackers is still out there spurs them into irrational action.
There’s no shying away from the brutality of violence here. There’s no celebration of it either. Gratuitous isn’t quite the right a word to describe anything in Rage. The violence is meant to make us wince and squirm, not cheer and pump our fists.
While the ferocity comes in short bursts, the emotional impact is given far more time to breathe. The trauma suffered by Noah and Madeline takes up the bulk of the film’s running time, and it’s here where the real pain is inflicted. Madeline’s near-catatonic state in the latter half of the film is more disturbing than any physical scar could be.
Rage occasionally abandons Noah and Madeline’s point of view to follow the detective (Richard Norton from Mad Max: Fury Road) working their case. Focusing on the police procedural side of the story takes away some of the urgency around the couple’s crumbling relationship, and, at times, threatens to stop the film dead. As the tension and drama surrounding Noah and Madeline’s actions increase later in the film, it only goes to highlight how unnecessary the police point of view ultimately is.
Rage isn’t the first film to comment on the never-ending cycle of violence that vengeance can create. It is, however, one of the few films to spend more than a fleeting moment on the emotional ramifications of random brutality.