Directed by: #JohnBalazs
Written by: #MichaelJKospiah
An ominous opening introduces us to husband and wife, Noah (Matthew Theodorou) and Madeline (Hayley Beveridge), who no longer have the best relationship. A lack of communication and physical contact has caused Madeline to seek solace in her sister’s company (Jessica - Nic Stevens) and driven Noah into the arms of another woman (Sophia - Natasha Maymon). But then a brutal and premeditated home invasion – which ends with Jessica’s murder, Madeline’s rape, and Noah left in a 39-day-long coma – sees the couple re-evaluate their lives, eventually setting them on a revenge-filled pursuit for justice.
Australian-made revenge thriller, Rage, certainly isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects head-on. The violence throughout is bloody and nasty and, at times, profoundly disturbing. The rape scene is, of course, the most difficult to stomach. The camera lingers on the events unfolding for what seems like a lifetime, but is, in fact, just long enough for it to feel extremely uncomfortable but in no way obtrusive or crass. It’s actually incredibly well handled, and I applaud Director John Balazs for his well-judged filming of this scene. Complementing Balazs’ vision is Ben Luck’s superbly creepy camerawork, which brought to mind Stefan Duscio’s sublime work on The Invisible Man in that it captures that constant discomforting awareness of being watched.
But Rage has something else in common with The Invisible Man too, something less approving. For all the things it gets right; for all the intrigue it builds in the first half of the film, Rage just can’t get the ending right. That downward spiral begins at around the half-way point and is mainly down to less-than-brilliant character resolution. Now I’m going to tread carefully here because I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing Michael Kospiah of being a poor writer—because he isn’t. The entire first half of the film (that’s a whopping 90-odd-minutes) is fantastic, and he weaves a web of intrigue that had me perplexed the whole way through.
There are many different avenues to go down here, which is great, and I love that even many of the side characters are fully fleshed out and engaging individuals. The issue is with so many avenues to explore, many of them lead to dead ends, while others are forgotten part way through and never seen or heard from again. The other problem the movie suffers is that its incredibly long running time of (around) 140-minutes causes huge disjoints between the characters that can take you out of the experience. With a bit of tidying up, I feel that a good 30 - 40-minutes could get chopped with no detrimental effect to the film whatsoever.
Where Rage excels, though, is in its presentation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like the rape scene that caused it, while utterly harrowing, PTSD is handled in a frank, realistic, but wholly respectful manner. Balazs has really done his homework here. But, of course, to make it work, you need an actress that can pull it off. Here is where Hayley Beveridge (as Madeline) comes into her own. She’s an absolute delight to watch in any scene, but post house invasion, she kicks things up a gear. Her portrayal of a woman; a survivor who has PTSD is outstanding and stands as one of the best I’ve seen for a hell of a long time. She’s our one solid throughout this film; our emotional link; our investment in its world, and I really can’t praise her enough.
Rage is a solid revenge-thriller that certainly deserves your time. But more than that, it deserves more than what it ended up being. For me, the payoff at the end just wasn’t there. I think perhaps I’ve sounded more critical than I wanted to here. I have really enjoyed this film, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it’ll play well with audiences, particularly to fans of the genre. I’ve only been as critical as I have because the film has so much potential that it fails to live up to. It’s a bit like when your mum tells you she’s not mad, she’s just disappointed. That’s what I felt by the end: a little disappointed.