Rage (formerly titled Tokarev) pits Nicolas Cage—the self-appointed witch doctor of American overacting—against the Russian mobsters he suspects kidnapped his daughter. It’s the kind of generic premise than can potentially produce B-movie gold, and the sort of role that Cage—who now possesses the hairline of a cartoon Richard Nixon—could make his own with little more than an eccentric line reading and a couple of tics.
Unfortunately, eccentricities are few and far between in the movie, with sleepy action that bungles its best ideas (like its potentially interesting twist ending) and finds Cage delivering one of his more moribund performances. Rage has knife fights, foot chases, car chases, point-blank shotgun blasts, and Peter Stormare as a wheelchair-bound Irish mobster—and somehow manages to make them all seem dull.
It all comes down to director Paco Cabezas’ addiction to coverage, which betrays a poor sense of rhythm and perspective. Take, for example, the scene where retired gangster Maguire (Cage) raids a drug den with two of his old Irish mob buddies. It opens with an effective establishing shot—a creeping low-angle of Maguire and his pals approaching the house, dressed in leather jackets and toting shotguns. Inside, a wide-angle Steadicam travels from room to room; it would be a great way to build tension, if Cabezas didn’t insist on intercutting the Steadicam shot with as many useless handheld close-ups as possible.
If nothing else, Rage elicits sympathy for its director of photography, Andrzej Sekula (Pulp Fiction, American Psycho), who clearly put a lot of work and personality into the movie’s many choreographed dollies, slow-mo sequences, and wide-angle master shots, only to see them chopped to bits. While they’re at it, viewers might also feel a little pity for Danny Glover, who plays the thankless role of Detective St. John, a cop who specializes in delivering exposition. “The guy had a rap sheet as long as my dick,” says St. John at one point. The line comes from Joe Eszterhas’ script for Jagged Edge; it’s no coincidence that the only memorable piece of dialogue in Rage is borrowed from elsewhere.