The King of Martial Arts
Versus A Bionic Killing Machine!
ENTER THE DRAGON MEETS HALLOWEEN
I know that has to be a tough one to swallow, but it sums this film up perfectly. We’ve got Chuck Norris, back when he was a B-movie kung fu star and not strutting across the small screen as watered-down WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. Across from him we have Brian Libby as an unstoppable killing machine. Mix these two together, add some humor courtesy of Stephen Furst, best known as Flounder from ANIMAL HOUSE, a stringent love story, an unintentionally funny biker gang, and you have SILENT RAGE.
The film starts with John Kirby, our resident nut job, awakening to a houseful of screaming kids. If he wasn’t already a psychopath bent on murder, the inhabitants of his home would drive him there. He talks to his doctor, played by Ron Silver, on the telephone. Kirby fumbles his medicine onto the ground and tells Silver he’s “losing it”. By the time Silver could get him calmed down, Kirby has already hung up the phone and meandered into the backyard to secure an axe from the woodpile.
He then proceeds to axe his way through mother and father. It’s here that I have to mention the death of the dear old Dad. He attacks Kirby from behind with a chair and gets an axe in the head for his troubles. But the kill is so fast and immediate that it drew a chuckle from your reviewer. It’s one of those scenes that just have to be seen to be believable.
So, after Kirby kills his family (but leaves those wild Indian screaming kids to live, damn him!), The Chuck shows up on the scene. There’s a bit of kung fu action and then a wild chase into the woods. The Chuck manages to secure Kirby and bring him back to the scene, where he handcuffs Kirby and slaps him in the back of a police car.
Here’s where we get our first view of Kirby being an unstoppable slasher. While lying in the car, he manages to break his handcuffs and escape. Of course, he gets enough buckshot unloaded into his ass to kill a horse for his troubles.
Kirby is then moved to a hospital, which also acts as some sort of strange genetics laboratory. This is also the work place of Ron Silver. After Kirby dies on the surgery table, his doctors shoot him full of a serum known as Modjon 35. Naturally, good guy Silver protests. But his colleagues, adorned with 1930s mad scientist glasses, poo poo his objections and shoot Kirby full of the medicine. This, of course, revives him. And it’s here that we see that Kirby is to become an unstoppable killing machine because, courtesy of early 1980s F/X, we see that scalpel wounds quickly heal on his naked chest.
It’s here that we also get the prerequisite love story kicking in. Silver’s sister, Stephanie Dunnam, also works at the hospital. By coincidence, she also used to be The Chuck’s main squeeze. After a bit of weak resists from Dunnam, she ends up in bed with The Chuck and we have our sexual relationship heating up.
Now, since this is billed as a kung fu film, we have to have The Chuck busting a few moves. These come courtesy of a biker gang tearing up a bar. This also leads to a bit of comedy from Furst who, supposedly calling in back-up, is instead telling the dispatcher about a biker chick with tattooed breasts. “They’re the biggest I’ve ever seen!” says Furst. And, of course, he doesn’t come back around until the action is finished.
Furst also has to be mentioned for his comedic “frozen dog” story. He tells it with such a straight face that it definitely brought a chuckle from said reviewer.
Meanwhile, Kirby is off killing people while stalking around like a Michael Myers-clone. There’s no doubt that the filmmakers had watched both HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II coming into the movie. Unfortunately, there’s so many times that Kirby looks out of it only to revive himself that the shock-factor (as if you didn’t already know Kirby was unstoppable) that it loses its power.
However, there’s one scene where he looks like he’s a mime impersonating a gorilla. He’s cornered The Chuck’s squeeze and is playing with her. We’re supposed to have a moment of “Uh oh!” suspense, but it’s so unintentionally funny that there’s no way it couldn’t bring a giggle from the viewer.
All of this stalking leads to a final showdown between The Chuck and Kirby. But, oh no, they’re fighting beside a bottomless well covered by rickety boards. Now, who do you think is going to take a fall into that mossy bottom? If you said Kirby, well… that’s not really a surprise, is it?
So, what does this all leave us with?
Michael Miller, who delivered the slasher spoof NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNTON, is behind the camera for this one. And I do think he does a good job with the material he has. There are scenes inside the laboratory’s hallway that are slightly creepy.
We also have The Chuck. When he isn’t driving around with Furst or wooing his ex-lover, he’s down and dirty with his kung-fu self. Thankfully, he doesn’t have many lines and instead is used as an action vehicle. If you’ve seen more than one Norris film, you know what you’re getting into here.
SILENT RAGE is nothing but goofy fun. Even when it’s unsure of what genre it’s trying to ape, the film is forgiven for just being a big hunk of fondue exploitation.
And now, since we’re at the end of the review, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the film’s ending. Talk about one that screamed for a sequel! I’m really surprised that we never got a SILENT RAGE 2.
This brings to mind another outburst from Stephen Furst. When he’s talking to The Chuck about not being a good deputy, Norris corrects him and tells Furst that he’s doing just fine.
“I knew you’d say that!” says Furst. “I knew you would!”
That’s right, and I’m saying it again:
Where’s that SILENT RAGE 2 script?