Rage (1972)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 22, 1972 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Nathan Southern

No doubt encouraged by his Emmy-winning success with the telemovie The Andersonville Trial, George C. Scott took his first directorial bow on a theatrical film with this disappointing, little-seen melodrama. A ham-handed message movie disguised as a violent revenge thriller, Rage explores one of the chief Middle American preoccupations of its time: the widespread (and legitimate) public fear of military malfeasance and conspiracy during the late Vietnam Era. Scott toplines the movie as Dan Logan, a widower rancher and single parent whose life falls to pieces via implication in a vile USAF conspiracy. During an innocent camping trip, he's exposed to an Agent Orange-like chemical that leaves him fatally ill and slaughters his twelve-year-old son. Manipulated, patronized, and deceived by the powers that be, the ailing Logan escapes from the prison-like hospital where he's confined, arms himself, and plots destruction. Although the performances here are superb (with both Scott and a young Martin Sheen in peak form), Scott's direction leaves much to be desired: he vacillates between ridiculous aesthetic extremes, such as gratuitous slow-motion shots that push the movie's already-histrionic developments to an absurd level, and banal framing of dialogue scenes that suggests an early 1970s series drama along the lines of Dr. Kildaire or Barnaby Jones. Equally unsatisfying is the movie's structure: it builds up to a tense climax that seems to demand a catharsis, but Logan's post-escape actions strike one as too ignorant and ill-advised to command our attention; we realize that the character is on a heartbreaking fool's errand sans any hope, and the only interest that the movie generates lies in watching its hero hurt others and self-destruct. It would have been far more emotionally satisfying for the audience if the screenwriters jettisoned Logan's murder spree and had him pursuing the sort of brilliant revenge that Robert Redford's character eventually undertakes in Three Days of the Condor - i.e., making a beeline for The New York Times or The Washington Post and enraging the American public with news of just how filthy the hands of their "noble" and "just" government have become. All told, the potential for a rich, engrossing story lies at the heart of Rage, but those possibilities mostly remain untapped here.