A look back at how Gary Daniels’ Rage has become an ultimate classic of 1990s DTV entertainment.
Making an action film is a complex craft, and production company PM Entertainment deservedly entered the hall of fame of their guild. Their inspiration and drive to create astonishing action sequences catapulted them to the forefront of 1990s DTV actioners. Where many 100-million-dollar productions have the excitement level of a TV soap, PM showed what can be done with a fraction of that money.
In 1994, Speed gave us a bus that wouldn’t stop, and one year later PM followed up with a human in total overdrive mode. 1995’s Rage was the overture to PM’s and Gary Daniels’ fantastic triple-R trilogy (Riot and Recoil being the other two), so let’s have a look!
Elementary school teacher Alex (Daniels) is abducted by a group of rogue military scientists. He turns out to be the perfect subject to experiment on after many failures with Mexican immigrants and is turned into a killing machine. Not overly content with his fate, Alex uses his newly acquired superpowers to escape the lab and keep his numerous pursuers at bay.
“I’m just trying to stay alive!” “Do it on somebody else’s time!”
The plot inevitably is thin, as lots of room is required for the action sequences. After setting up the premise, Alex is chased by corrupt cops and a TV reporter, even though a right-wing conspiracy as well as some criticism of sensationalist media and consumerism (“In this city mall, people try to improve their life by buying whatever is offered to them.”) provide at least traces of originality.
Despite what the title may suggest, our British fugitive Alex is not really raging, but just trying to make it out alive of every peril director Joseph Merhi puts him in. And yet the film is almost constantly in mayhem mode, with a few breaks that do nothing for the story but provide some occasional comic relief.
I was a bit tired when I started to watch Rage again for this article, but after ten minutes it woke me up like the blackest of coffees. The film starts with Daniels giving an endearing portrayal of an incredibly kind elementary school teacher who wants to talk about monkeys but accidentally ends up profiling Jeffrey Dahmer.
After his abduction we see a laboratory with a hideous set design. It seems we might have landed in C-grade territory, but do not worry, this sequence marks the beginning of an action inferno. Daniels wakes up with superhuman powers, throws some guards and scientists through windows, perforates the rest with machine pistols akimbo, sets the whole place on fire, and gets his balls tasered.
He’s a Foreigner, a Limey. He don’t speak good English.
After that it’s showdown after showdown with three spectacular set pieces sticking out the most:
- An explosive highway chase with two colliding rigs, a school bus and countless police cars flipping and spinning while engulfed in flames
- Daniels (mostly his stunt double) hanging from the ledge of a skyscraper while getting shot at from a helicopter, falling onto a window cleaning platform, and from there all the way down to the ground and through a glass roof
- A shootout in a shopping mall that pays homage to the Police Story mall fight. It’s less elaborate but compensates with more violence and even more people thrown through windows and down escalators. Also, the best video store in existence (it carries only PM titles) is razed to the ground.
The real star of the film: Spiro Razatos’ action unit
Daniels is a fine action hero and gets to do a couple of nice fights, but the real star of the film is the action crew led by legendary stunt choreographer Spiro Razatos. His people jump from burning trucks, pull off insane driving maneuvers, crazy high falls, and fight on a helicopter skid in mid-air, the list goes on and on.
It’s obvious that the stunt people put themselves at high risk during the production. In our time, greenscreens and CGI drastically reduce the dangers for them, and yet I’m glad films like Rage got made. Maybe it caters to our voyeuristic instincts, but I don’t care, it’s just all so awesome to watch!
PM Entertainment and Daniels can be proud of what they achieved with Rage, a spectacle that puts a lot of action blockbusters of its time to shame, and which has become an ultimate classic of 1990s DTV entertainment.