Sunday, January 30, 2011

[REVIEW] - Rage

There are very few filmmakers that seem to bring with the simple addition of their name to a film, an automatic sense of credibility or inherent respect quite like the man himself, Guillermo del Toro.

Whether it be producing credits on films like The Orphanage, or his upcoming writing credit on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, del Toro has taken his insane amount of and truly turned it into something of a father figure, furthering on the careers of young, up and coming filmmakers.

The latest to get the del Toro bump, Sebastian Cordero, is back with his follow up to his well loved sophomore effort, Chronicles, and while it may seem to just have del Toro’s name attached as a producer, not only is this film covered in del Toro’s light touch, but it’s also a genuinely well crafted, engaging, and well acted thriller. Rage is shares quirks with films like Cronos as much as it does the erotic voyeuristic thrillers of Brian De Palma.

Rage follows the story of a construction worker who, after accidentally killing a man after confronting him about recently being fired, hides in a mansion where his girlfriend is working as a maid. A story of rage on the truest plain conceptually, the film is a romantic thriller that looks at what happens to a man who literally loses everything, ranging from relationships with his girlfriend and the outside world, to ultimately the sanity that makes you and I human.

However well conceived the film truly may be though, all would be undone if it weren’t for this collection of really fantastic performances.

Starring Gustavo Sanchez Parra as our film’s lead, Jose Maria, the film relies on his performance from the very outset. Thankfully, he knocks it out of the park. The film is drenched in this sense of melodrama that extends into the performances, but they as a whole, particularly Parra’s, feels so real within this given world. This man has literally lost everything that makes him human, and while it may be slight in the grand scheme of things, you get this great sense of true building rage within this performance, that is simply just lights up the screen. He himself is the bomb under the table in this film, and its one hell of a time watching it slowly tick down to zero.

Playing his love interest is the wonderful and beautiful Martina Garcia as the maid, Rosa. She is perfectly cast in this roll, and while it’s hard to believe that a woman like this would stick around for a man who had killed a man, there is a sense of truth within the performance (and a certain plot point definitely helps the plot move forward), that really gives way to a great counterpoint to the overtly brooding performance from Parra.

Rounding out the cast are four really great supporting performances from Alex Brendemuhl, Concha Velasco, Xabier Elorriaga, and Iciar Bollain. The four of them play the family that Rosa is the maid for, and they really give this sense of reality to this otherwise hyper-melodramatic story. Great supporting performances can really hold a film together, and these four are the general glue that keeps this film from falling into the realm of high class telenovela.

That said, the premise, and often the writing, don’t hold the film to that relatively high standard.

Written by Cordero, and based on a novel penned by Sergio Bizzio, the film is an inherently compelling narrative, the writing here doesn’t do it any favors. Often putting the film’s main thesis right into the ether that the film creates, Cordero doesn’t quite take the same sense of subtlety that he does with his frame as he does here in the script. A script ripped straight out of a Lifetime movie, the cast here has to pull more than their fair share of weight, and while it ultimately works as a campy B-thriller, Cordero doesn’t do himself any favors on the written page.

That said, he does save himself visually.

Seemingly taking cues from both del Toro and a filmmaker like De Palma, Rage has this sense of up front and real world brutality that gives the early films of del Toro their sense of raw filmmaking aesthetic. Pair this with a voyeuristic sense of thrilling eroticism, and you have a low-key thriller that takes more than its fair share of cues from the aforementioned filmmakers. In the dingy world of thrillers, the film gives the viewer a breath of fresh air both visually and thematically, bringing you a visually visceral look at a man losing his sanity and his humanity.

Overall, while the film may lack a screenplay that is worth its weight in pulp, the film thrives on a fantastic collection of performances, as well as an assured filmmaker at its core. A breath of fresh air in the world of feature film thrillers, Rage is a relatively single location film that makes the most of its creepy location and relatively intriguing themes.

While it may not be the strongest film ever made, but for fans of thrillers, this is definitely a must see picture.

Rage – 7.5/10

Go see something good!

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