Short guys in leather don't stand a chance.

Gary Daniels. The name just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Like liquid velvet on rye, it is. Gary Daniels. Try whispering it into your lover's ear tonight and see what happens. I myself had never heard of this guy until the independent television station I work for decided to pick up a movie package from Ascent Media, a company that distributes the timeless, life-changing motion pictures produced by PM Entertainment. Never heard of them? Not surprised. They're responsible for a ton of horrible action flicks, including a few Don "The Dragon" Wilson vehicles and several directorial efforts by Art Camacho, who is essentially the Michael Bay of dodgy B-Grade action. Anyone who's seen Gangland and/or Recoil knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Anyway, world-renowned kick-boxing champion Gary Daniels was a name I was completely unfamiliar with, despite the fact that I own both Anthony Hickox's Submerged and Jing Wong's City Hunter, two films that feature the charismatic Brit in small, easily-forgettable roles. So small and forgettable, in fact, that his presence didn't even register on my Internal Spreadsheet of B-Movie Fighters, a database fueled by Red Bull, Cheese Nips, and a serious lack of better things to do.

No, the first Gary Daniels picture to catch my attention deficit disorder was probably Richard Pepin's Firepower, or maybe it was the one that finds our hero whipping up some shirtless martial arts wizardry while wearing a pair of "Hammer Pants" inspired by the good ol' American flag. I honestly can't remember. Sorry about that. After a while, the majority of these pictures begin to bleed together into one malnourished amalgamation of ideas and explosions. Start watching this stuff on a regular basis and you'll experience the effects yourself.

Though these titles left a vague, slightly milky impression on my cinema-soaked gray matter, it was definitely Daniel's 1996 effort Rage that made me a fan. He stars as second-grade teacher Alex Gainer, a kung fu family man who is car-jacked one bright sunny afternoon by an angry Mexican armed with a shiny handgun and an itchy trigger finger. Always a bad combination. When the police finally force the duo off the road, Gainer is promptly beaten into submission and shipped off to a high-tech laboratory that secretly tests experimental drugs on illegal immigrants. And seeing as how they've got this nice, strong white boy at their disposal, the brilliant scientists on-duty inject the drug into our hero and prepare to record the results.

Bad idea. Gainer's body is already a finely tuned machine, so you can only imagine what this mind-altering chemical cocktail does to his physique. After kicking around a few dirty federal agents and crushing some podunk sheriff's genitals, Alex is on the run from just about everyone. Local police. FBI. CIA. Sado-masochistic couples. Rogue semi-truck drivers. If they're armed and dangerous and heading his way, chances are Alex is going to pound pavement in the opposite direction. Thankfully, a failed television reporter and his goofy camera operator are slowly uncovering this truly scandalous affair, one that could threaten a nervous governor's political standing. Can they put all the pieces together before Gainer is gunned down in cold blood?

Veteran director/producer Joseph Merhi (Repo Jack, Night of the Wilding) has magically transformed a soggy two-page script into a compelling chase film stuffed with horrible acting, impossibly goofy stunts, and several outlandish action set pieces featuring the wily Mr. Daniels and his crazy flailing legs. It's not the greatest thing you'll ever witness, obviously, but it's certainly a lot more fun than the like-minded Wesley Snipes vehicle Unstoppable. Of course, that's really not a hard mission to accomplish.

But let's be honest with each other, shall we? Rage is not a good movie by any stretch of your demented imagination. The damned thing just barely manages coasts by on its unbridled energy alone. You see, to compensate for a severe lack of story, our hero Daniels is thrust into one silly scenario after another at break-neck speeds. While most of these situations are outrageous in their own special way, nothing can touch his escape from a head-on collision that finds him sailing over a school bus piloted by the same portly cop he chopped in the balls earlier in the film. Pure insanity? Of course! And when our hero rises like a kick-boxing phoenix from the ashes of that fiery confrontation, you'll know in your heart that this is the best movie you've ever seen.

Okay, okay. I'm exaggerating again. You see, my idea of a good time probably differs greatly from yours, so don't fill my inbox with your hateful disdain if you decide to investigate this title on your own. If you weren't a child of late-night Cinemax action pictures and Movie Warehouse 99-cent bargain rentals, chances are you'll find yourself turning this nonsense off ten minutes or so into the proceedings. In other words, those with a taste for the finer things in life definitely won't think much of Rage. That's okay; I won't hold it against you. This time.

So why even bother watching this forgotten 90-minute thriller, you ask? Two words: Gary Daniels. What the guy lacks in acting talent he certainly makes up for in martial arts insanity. The staged fights are a little wonky, yes, but you simply cannot deny Daniels' talent as a first-class kung fu wizard. When the man deals out the damage, you can feel the nerve-shredding intensity in the cuticles of your gnarled pinkie toes. Yes, dear readers, ol' Gary is truly the only reason you'll consider giving this one a shot. He ultimately keeps everything from falling apart, even when he's dangling from the top of a big city skyscraper for fifteen minutes. And as you know, that takes all kinds of talent.

So what's left to say about Rage? Not much, really. It's just another goofy action flick from a production company that prides itself on releasing some of the weirdest low-budget genre fodder known to man. A slight improvement over the glut of their output, yes, but a goofy picture nonetheless. If you've never heard of Art Camacho, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, and Mr. Gary Daniels, it's nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, give yourself a big pat on the back. Go ahead! You've successfully avoided the radioactive end of the action-adventure wasteland, and for that you should be proud. No cinematic cancer for you.

That said, be sure to keep feeding yourself a steady diet of artsy superhero films and silly Leonardo DiCaprio crime thrillers, because once you've mainlined a syringe full of moronic action, you'll be hooked for life. I'm living proof. But if you're willing to take that plunge, if you're oh-so ready to take a ride on the mild side, slide on over here and I'll cook you up a seething batch of Rage. It's approved by the Federal Martial Arts Cinema Association and everything.

Before you know it, Gary Daniels will be your drug of choice.

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1 Spasms:

Anonymous said...

This movie is awesome.

January 6, 2009 at 12:05 AM