Silent Rage

Usually, when there’s a gruff sheriff in town, he’s doin’ battle against cattle rustlers, restless natives, or rounding up a posse to exact revenge on stagecoach bandits. In Silent Rage, Chuck Norris (Sheriff Dan) seems to have wandered off the set of a Rory Calhoun movie and into a world of Re-Animator/The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

Mental patient John Kirby is in standoff with police after axe-murdering his landlady. He’s pumped full of head and taken to a hospital, where twisted attending physicians fill his veins with an experimental serum, bringing him back from death’s door. Unfortunately for all concerned, a revivified Kirby is back to his evil ways, a near-unstoppable killing machine terrorizing Texas townsfolk. When will these weird syringe experimental serum developers ever learn their lesson?

Sheriff Dan, alongside reluctant and doughy Deputy Charlie (Stephen Furst of Animal House) team up to track down the psycho and take him out more permanently.

To pad the run-time, a noticeably relaxed Norris, hot on the heels of playing a Frisco narcotics cop (An Eye for an Eye) has to fight off dirtnik bikers who assail him in the local diner for ordering “hot tea.” He makes quick work of the 1%ers, with a bar biker beat-down worthy of A Bronx Tale. All the while, he’s reconciling with an ex (that staple of action films), romancing the paramour with whom he’d parted ways six years earlier (such is the allure of Chuck Norris, especially in protracted and extremely odd lovemaking hammock montages).

If you hadn’t already guessed, Silent Rage is a movie that doesn’t know what the heck it wants to be: biker exploitation or stalk-n-slash horror, as a near-dead antagonist is depleting the population of this already-small Texas burg.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Chuck, the human meme-generator, is not one to be trifled with. And here, the fists and the feet fly, albeit not enough.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Silent Rage on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

The Edge

From downtown…from Mitch & Murray, Mr. Steak Knives himself, Alec Baldwin, stars alongside with Sir Fava Beans, Anthony Hopkins in The Edge — in this, another David Mamet-penned joint (as talky, though not as memorable as Glengarry Glen Ross).

Hopkins plays a polymath billionaire, an almost Victorian era-styled adventurer named Charles, who is accompanying his age-inappropriate wife on a photo-shoot in Alaskan back-country (actually, western Alberta, Canada).

Charles, along with his wife’s dashing photographer (Baldwin), and their pal Stephen (Oz/Sons of Anarchy mainstay, Harold Perrineau) find out just how dangerous nature can be right off the bat when a bird strike downs their small plane, after some foreshadowing.

Stuck in the remote bush, the trio has to fend for themselves and make it to safety while a mammoth Kodiak bear is in hot pursuit.   

What good is a survivalist tale without a healthy dose of bickering? With Mamet in charge, this takes the form of pretty welcome, wry stuff like:

“You can season meat with gunpowder. Did you know that?
…Wish we had some gunpowder.”

With a love triangle as text, not subtext, we know that it’ll take everything these people have to get out of there alive without tearing out each others’ throats before ursa does.

When it comes to genre films, 1997 was a pretty great year: LA Confidential, The Fifth Element, Starship Troopers, Donnie Brasco, Jackie Brown, etc. Yet The Edge remains decidedly under the radar, despite a top-drawer cast that also includes Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones and leggy Down Under model, Elle Macpherson.

The Edge asks the question, what personality style prevails in the bush? Is it Charles’ placid hubris, Bob’s impulsive hotheadedness, Stephen’s clarion calls? (the latter even spins a Voltarian variant of “the best is the enemy of the good” with, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”)

A genre film with smarts, The Edge loses its namesake with some coda-sagging. Still, a pretty fun nature-run-amok flick, and a great bear to boot.

*** (out of 5)