(aka) Speed Rage
Directed by Joseph Merhi Produced by Joseph Merhi, Richard Pepin Action by Red Horton, Denney Pierce, Spiro Razatos
Starring: Gary Daniels, Kenneth Tigar, Fiona Hutchinson, Jillian McWhirter, Peter Jason, Mark Metcalf, Ramon Sison
Reviewing: ILC Prime UK DVD Release
Genres: Action / Martial Arts / Thriller
Rating - 3.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Alex Granier falls victim to the underground operations of a black laboratory, where he, as one of their 'lab rats', is injected with lethal chemicals known to induce murderous fits of rage that cause people to kill without conscience. When Alex escapes from the lab, he is chased by a score of police officers who believe he is a dangerous madman. Only television reporter Harry Johansen, Alex's single ally, can help prove his innocence as he races against time in search of the antidote that will save his life.
Views: The handsome Gary Daniels stars as an easy-going and funny primary school teacher, who seems to be living a good life complete with a loving wife, a doting daughter, and a big house. After dropping his daughter off for a sleepover, Gary takes a break from whistling a happy tune as he stops at the crossroads to let some police cars pass him. But before he can drive off, a gun-toting Mexican jumps in his vehicle and holds it to his head. As the pair of them speed away, the police soon catch up (bizarrely) and soon corner Gary's car. Forcing both of them out at gunpoint, the (dirty) cops attack the Mexican and Daniels – knocking them unconscious. Confused and sore, the teacher soon wakens in an unknown lab, poked and probed by a bunch of (dirty) scientists who are testing a new 'rage' serum out on humans. Seeing how wonderfully athletic and fit Daniels is, they begin their trials on him but it doesn't take long for the Brit-kicker to break free and start beating the hell out of everyone around him. It's an action scene only 12 minutes in that would appear in most other US action movies final moments, packed with great kicks and explosions that soon lead to a manic car chase on the freeway with Daniels smashing his truck through anything that gets in his way!
Welcome to Rage, a 1995 straight-to-video action flick that's opening 30 minutes alone shames the majority of Hollywood action films released today. Directed by Joseph Merhi, one half of P.M. Entertainment and the man behind many low-budget flicks like L.A. Crackdown 1 & 2, Final Impact, Maximum Force, Last Man Standing, and Riot – which also stars Gary Daniels. As a producer, he was behind so much more and many of which were enjoyable, guilty pleasures of my teenage years. I have to admit though, this was such an odd project for Gary Daniels to star in because apart from the martial arts skills he just happened to have, anyone could have played the role really. Although things were starting to look up for him in the early 90s, with roles in Final Impact, Deadly Bet, Mission Of Justice, Albert Pyun's Knights and Heatseeker, as well as facing off against Jackie Chan in the fun City Hunter and gaining the lead role in the awesome live adaptation of, Fist Of The North Star – the mid-90s would see a shake-up of projects that landed the rest of the films from his career in the bargain bin. Of course, there were some exceptions such as Bloodmoon and Cold Harvest. Fans were happy to see him pop up in The Expendables of course, hoping that it would indeed reignite some love for this forgotten martial arts star, but to be honest, there hasn't been too much more since then that has proved memorable in any way. I like Gary Daniels – a lot. He's got the looks and the moves, but is perhaps just too soft spoken for most of the tough guy roles he portrays. And while he isn't the strongest of actors, the kick-boxing champion has definitely gotten better over the years. Perhaps it's all down to bad management, but films like Rage became the staple diet of Gary's career. I know everyone's gotta work, but it's just a shame that nothing better ever came along for him. Saying that, stuffed in between the terrible 90s fashion, the bad writing, shoddy camerawork, and dodgy actors, is an exciting and fun 90 minutes of entertainment, packed with some impressive action and some great stunt work. It's sold as a story of a man injected with rage, but it very quickly turns into a movie about a man on the run who hardly ever shows any. A similar storyline was put to much better effect of course, in Danny Boyle's epic 28 Days Later in 2002, but took that whole idea to another level. Veteran actor, Kenneth Tigar, plays Harry – a news reporter determined to prove Daniels is innocent. Starting in the industry in 1970, this character actor has shown up in over 170 productions such as Kojak, Wonder Woman, Dallas, Growing Pains, Lethal Weapon 3, Avengers Assemble, and so much more. Although its hardly a spectacular role, Tigar is a genuine actor and makes it work for him. Bit-player and extra, Tim Colceri, plays Detective Parish – one of the big 'baddies' who is out to take Daniels down. Having appeared in films such as Full Metal Jacket, Eraser, and Leprechaun 4: In Space, Colceri milks his role for everything he can, excited (I'm sure) to be in a more demanding role. Both actors stuck around with the team to join Daniels in Riot which was made the same year, with Sugar Ray Leonard joining in the fun. Interestingly enough, Tigar would once again star as Harry Johansen...
Fight choreographer and director Art Camacho handles the action in Rage, delivering enough exciting moments to keep even the most hardened-action-fan pleased. The first 30 minutes is definitely the best of the bunch, with plenty of smaller fights in between and a great helicopter (and high-rise) stunt following that. The oddest moment of the action has to be when Gary fights a BDSM couple in their home. Dressed in leather and chains, the pair attack him with frying pans and fists without any question as to who he is (or if he even wanted to join in). The end fight takes place in a mall, where Daniels is surrounded by crooked cops and special agents. As much as he gets to punch and kick with style, the blue-eyed hero ultimately succumbs to a typical American style action scene that relies on lots of window smashing, fall stunts, and gun-play. That said, part of the scuffle moves into a video store (via the window) with Gary fighting off the enemy in front of many posters of P.M. Entertainment movies. Even though Hong Kong filmmakers were delivering this kind of thing many years before (and much better I might add), I was still kept engrossed and excited with what was on offer. Apart from directing many DTV titles, Art was behind the action on a host of P.M. Movies as well as films such as The Base with Mark Dacascos, Half Past Dead 1 & 2, Sci-Fighters, and the Banshee television series, as well as much more. He does a great job with Rage – clearly inspired with what he has seen coming from the East – and is the main reason behind what makes this basic 90s action flick entertaining!
Overall: Typically 90s and often cringe-worthy, Rage wins with some great action sequences and at least one scene with Daniels topless!
DVD Extras: Trailer