Not to be a broken record, but what are they NOT teaching in film school about editing and pace these days?
Is everybody taking their filmmaking cues from limited series (streaming) television?
Because up here and Down Under, I’m seeing scores of movies that drift like an ice flow, taking forever to get to whatever obvious or semi-concealed point or twist they’re trying to get across.
“Rage” is the worst recent example of “Get to the bloody POINT mate” thrillers to crawl down the pike. Slow? You have no idea.
But if you’re flirting with an Australian version of the plot of a well-known episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” not just the 1950s version but one remade when the show came back in the ’80s, telling your story at a glacial pace doesn’t so much throw viewers off the scent as bore us half to death.
Maddie (Hayley Beveridge) and Noah (Matt Theo) aren’t in the happiest of marriages. There’s a hint of snippiness in his home renovation at odd hours and her toothpaste-tube squeezing obsession.
We slowly get a hint that she might be pregnant (EPT test eyeballed in the store), that she’s wondering if he’s cheating. He’s “late at work” entirely too often (in Melbourne) for comfort. Yes, there’s a side chick there.
And then there’s this creepy guy who asks a few too many questions at her job as receptionist at a dental office. We’re also seeing her stalked, from the stalker’s point of view.
On a fateful night, Noah “works late,” sister Rebecca comes over to comfort a zoned-out Maddie, and that’s when the home invaders strike.
Director John Balazs (“Ninja Immovable Heart”) stages screenwriter Michael J. Kospiah’s assault in brutal, bloody and close-up detail. It’s graphic and ugly and Maddie and Noah, who shows up late, barely survive it.
The movie is about their separate recoveries — this opens a wider rift in their marriage — and the hunt for the surviving attacker. About the only clever thing about that is tossing a few suspects in the path of the viewer and the slow-walking/slow-talking detective (Richard Norton) investigating the case.
There’s an opening scene “spoiler” I won’t reveal any more than I’ll name the Hitchcock TV script they borrowed. But here’s how you get 143 minutes out of a 52 minute tale.
We meet Detective Bennett (Norton) when he shows up at the crime scene, slowly walking through the house where the attacks took place, eyeballing the blood spatters and photos of the bodies. This slow-walk takes a minute or two. Then he takes another minute explaining what happened, and in what order, to his subordinates.
We’ve already seen the crime. We already know. The guy’s a grizzled veteran of the force, somebody with experience and skill. A gifted filmmaker can get across those ideas in a couple of scenes, in one fifth as many set-ups as we’re treated to here.
There’s no urgency that follows the shock, no “rage” that consumes the surviving victims.
Scenes leading up to that sort of stumble by, but the ones that follow — red herrings, cars rolling up to this location or that one, witnesses putting off talking to Bennett — are performed at a near standstill.
The basic idea — stalked, a terrible crime, a handful of suspects and potential motives — could have produced a brisk thriller with some bite.
As director Balazs also did the editing, well, that’s where the fickle finger of failure points.
This script should have been culled, winnowed and thinned before camera ever rolled. The finished cut should gotten to the assault earlier and sprinted through the investigation and aftermath.
And while there’s a nice villainous turn here and there, the performances have the same sedentary quality as the film they’re acting in.
As it is, “Rage” plays as “peeved,” and bored.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, including rape, profanity
Cast: Matt Theo, Hayley Beveridge, Richard Norton
Credits: Directed by John Balazs, script by Michael J. Kospiah. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 2:23.