Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Kickboxer vs. The Mime

Back in the glory days of the teen slasher and the martial arts film, someone got a wonderful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. "Let us marry," they said, blowing smoke rings into the already hazy room from a fat, hand-rolled cigarette, "the slasher film with the karate film."

Then, of course, they got the munchies and forgot all about it.

But the idea was out there now. In the zeitgeist, if you will. And somehow--Jung only knows how--the idea filtered into Producer Anthony Unger's head, or perhaps it was writer Joseph Fraley who saw it in a vision, and someone said unto them, "Hey, I know Chuck Norris."

And Silent Rage was born.

The premise is simple: Brian Libby (now one of the Frank Darabont regulars) plays a killer who is taken down by the inimitable Chuck Norris. In the morgue, some coroners (those scamps!) decide to bring him back to life using a serum that renders him immortal. (I think the idea is that he regenerates super-fast, like Wolverine or something.)

Now, this plays out like two films: The horror film where the killer goes around killing, and the Chuck Norris film, where Chuck Norris goes around kicking. And that's all I have to say about that.

But when they finally meet, it's actually a groundbreaking bit of cinematic goofiness I like to call bullets-can't-hurt-him-I-guess-I'll-have-to-kick-him-to-death. It may not be the first example of this, but it's the first I can recall. (I think the pinnacle of this kind of absurdity was probably Underworld: Evolution.)

Basically, after being shot, run over, dropped off a building, and set on fire, all that's left is for Norris to kick the crap out of him. He's slow moving, as all these guys are for some reason, so Chuck gets to wail on him a good long time before knocking him down a well.

Keeping in mind all that he's gone through up to this point, you'd say, "OK, board up the well. Or fill it with rocks. He's already fallen further and been fine. Surely you can't just walk away at this point. NOT NOW?!"

But indeed, the movie ends there, with Norris walking off arm-in-arm with Toni Kalem (late of "The Sopranos"), and the entirely predictable moments-later bursting out of the well by the killer. One of those, "Well, we had to end the film some time and this seemed as good a time as any."

Though unique (as far as I know) in its status as a genre-blender1, this move is actually very, very typical of movies of the day, and the two genres come off as oil-and-water.

Besides the aforementioned actors, the film features a number of familiar character actors, including Stephen Furst ("Flounder" from Animal House, who would go on to achieve stardom anew by being in and directing episodes of "Babylon 5") and the great Ron Silver, who really wasn't so great back in those days. (Though he's way better than he was in the '70s by this point.)

With enough action that you can watch it for fun, and enough goofiness that you can riff on it, if that's your mood, it's not a bad film to sit down with.

1. Friday The Thirteenth Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan has a short scene where a karate dude tries to kick Jason around and gets his head knocked off, but if that's an homage to this film, it's not apparent. The Buffy universe doesn't really fit in this category either, since it's not horror blended with martial arts, but martial arts in an occult universe, where the horror elements are window dressing. (Joss Whedon does the same thing in a sci-fi universe with Firefly.)

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