The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



I keep rooting for Nicolas Cage. I really do. He's an enormously talented actor, and his career is in such a terrible place. Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, Seeking Justice, Trespass, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Stolen, The Frozen Ground - these are films he's made in just the last four years. There are various theories why his career hit the skids. They really don't matter. It only matters that this man who has turned in many unique, affecting performances in the past is now stuck in Movie Hell. Apparently, he's not getting out anytime soon. Case in point: Rage.

The movie, which could just as aptly have been titled Hey, Let's Rip Off “Taken”, casts Cage as Paul Maguire, a reformed criminal now trying to live a life of domestic peace. When his daughter Caitlin (Aubrey Peeples) is kidnapped, Paul gets his old crew back together to find out who's responsible. In the process, he is led deep into the world of the Russian mafia. Because the first rule of low-budget action flicks is: when inspiration is absent, just use the Russian mafia. Much to the dismay of wife Vanessa (Rachel Nichols), Paul reverts to his particular set of skills – I mean sociopathic tendencies – to make some people pay.

There's a way certain movies are made. Foreign territories love American action films. It doesn't matter if they're good or not; they can easily be sold. For this reason, producers sometimes slap them together for the global marketplace. You get a recognizable star to attract interest. Plot and characterization don't translate well into other languages, so you only have to cobble together a bare-bones screenplay. You make sure there's a near-constant stream of violence and mayhem. That's all there is to it. I don't know if Rage was made under these circumstances, but it absolutely feels like it was. The movie is thoroughly perfunctory. You can tell no one involved was interested in doing anything that hadn't been done a million times before. They simply adhere to a very old formula, hitting each beat in rote fashion that eschews originality in favor of almost non-stop fetishistic violence. Nothing here is even remotely engaging. Not on an intellectual level, not on an emotional level, and not on a visceral level.

For his part, Cage does the bare minimum. He used to bring such interesting angles to his characters. Here, he does his trademark whisper-to-a-scream thing, but generally looks bored. How could he not be bored? There's nothing for him to do. Surely, an actor of his caliber wants a full-blooded role to play. It must have been dispiriting to be stuck in a part that requires little of him other than glaring menacingly at people and shooting guns. This is actually Cage's second recent movie in which he plays a father looking for his kidnapped daughter. (The other was Stolen.) It is also, following Seeking Justice, his second recent movie in which he exacts revenge against the baddies who mess with his family. Such repetition is the enemy of creativity.

Rage features a lot of bloodshed, delivered at a surprisingly slow pace, in a manner that elicits not a single response beyond boredom. Director Pablo Cabezas stages the action with all the grace of an elephant trying to walk down a flight of stairs. There is no style here whatsoever. The film also ends with a message that's extremely hypocritical in light of all the bloodshed that's come before it. Nicolas Cage deserves much better than this nonsense. So do you.

( out of four)

Rage is unrated, but contains strong bloody violence and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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