Dennis (Rick Crawford) lives in picturesque suburbia in Oregon with a gorgeous wife (Audrey Walker) and friendly neighbors. All seems fine in his life, except he’s going to Portland to cut off an extramarital affair he’s been having, and winds up running afoul of a motorcyclist (Chris Witherspoon). What starts out as a seemingly innocuous moment between the two in a parking lot turns dangerous when the biker starts stalking Dennis.
Things start out small. The biker blocks Dennis from making a traffic light before it turns red, for example, but things escalate from there, as the biker begins showing up all over the place, harassing Dennis; unlike the musical cues for the shark from Jaws, the biker makes his presence known with a series of simple beeps from his horn.
As the film goes on, Dennis tries to make sense of the entire situation. Why did this biker choose him? Is the biker the boyfriend of the woman he was having an affair with? Is the biker some form of violent karma for his marital indiscretions? Dennis needs to figure it out fast, though, as things just keep getting worse and worse, with increasingly bloody and disastrous results.
Rage is a throwback; a B-movie style film that doesn’t look like one, but maintains that dirty thriller tone anyway. The suspense builds slow as the flawed everyman Dennis finds himself in an increasingly psychotic scenario. The film wears its influence a little too overtly on its sleeve when a conversation about Steven Spielberg’s Duel breaks out at a mechanic’s, but at least it does those influences justice, though with an increasingly mean-spirited perspective.
This is a smart thriller, and while we’ve seen many of these elements before, it’s done so well that it’s refreshing to see something so accomplished attempt such a classic style. The climax goes a little too dark for my tastes, dancing too close to the nihilistic tone of torture porn and slasher horror but, thankfully, it also offers some of its own language to the conversation as well, which elevates it beyond just a simple genre homage.
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