The 90s called, they want their subversive drug movie back — Red Rage (Film Review)

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Just when you think enough time has passed since the late-90s, direct-to-video Pulp Fiction inspired subversively violent, one-time shock value Fight Club surrealist flick is long to parade its exhaustive, threadbare, and often lacking knock-off directly onto your 55” flatscreen on a Friday night, here comes Red Rage to keep the spirit of the 90s exasperatingly alive.

Red Rage (a.k.a. Red Devil in the United States) is the pistol-wielding, neon-lit, sometimes hypnotic story involving a married couple—Oscar and Ella (Jack Turner and Fernanda Diniz)—hellbent on ridding the streets of the powdery drug known as Red Devil that invokes a methamphetamine level addiction in its users, by simply gunning down—occasionally, and unimpressively during coitus (because in case you forgot, tossing in a little sex makes drugs and violence that much more subversive)—anyone in the business of selling it.    

In the meantime, Red Devil addict Riley (Jamie Crew) painfully limps his way from place to place, encountering no one short of prostitutes and devil-worshippers, seeking more and more of the red stuff until he finally reaches humble pot dealer Hugo (Ian Reddington)—the Michelangelo of marijuana—and his avian/cowboy garbed pal Gabriel (Matt Lapinskas), who are next on Oscar and Ella’s hit-list, and have concocted a new marijuana hybrid that’ll knock your socks off. 

And that just about covers it for plot.  Writer-director Savvas D. Michael serves up a lion’s share of contrived dialogue—who we have none other than Quentin Tarantino to thank for inspiring a generation of filmmakers to amp up eye-rolling, overwrought, incendiary, needlessly minutiae-laden, trivia-packed conversations—but the man seems to balance plot and story pretty well. However, I’ve had bottles of Heinz 57—the glass kind—move faster than some of the scenes in this film. I direct you to the gratuitous but brief monologue from Stephen Berkoff’s drug guru Lazarus—because of course there’s a drug guru named Lazarus—where he tells some ironic story (because irony is cool, right) about how Red Devil was discovered in some south-eastern Asian village where the villagers were so high they tried to take on an actual army but were wiped out because 1) they were high and 2) up against an actual army.

The Tarantino spice doesn’t end there!  In case you were ever unsure of who’s really driving the drug and violence bus here, Savvas, who I guess couldn’t get rights to Morricone music from classic spaghetti westerns, rustles up tracks from the convincingly inspired Stephan Sechi.  Look him up on Spotify, he’s good—almost too good—if you’re into that sort of thing.  Anyway, at this point, sure it’s easy to enjoy the music, but with the drugs, the violence, the exhausting dialogue, this kind of flick starts to get long in the tooth.

If I’d seen this movie 20 years ago, I probably would have told you that Savvas was an inspired and ahead of his time cinematic visionary, but unfortunately there’s been plenty of other inspired, ahead of their time cinematic visionaries that have pounded out some kind of version of this same film, oh, a few hundred times or so, so I’m docking major points for originality.

In the final 20 minutes—when something actually happens—Oscar and Ella face-off with Hugo who is suddenly visited by Riley in search of more Red, and in some forgettable, overbaked, “profound” exchange of dialogue, with a dash of Fight Club surrealism (I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, was I), that amounts to being something about loneliness, we learn Hugo and Gabriel aren’t who we thought they were.

Technically there’s no reason to really discount this movie as bad so maybe it just didn’t land on the right day for me. The performances are great, the look is great, the score is fun, but like the Red Devil addict looking for the next fix, it’s all used up and has nowhere to go.

Dir: Savvas D. Michael

Scr:  Savvas D. Michael

Cast: Jack Turner, Fernanda Diniz, Ian Reddington, Jamie Crew, Matt Lapinskas, and Stephen Berkoff

Prd:  Andreas Neo

Country: United Kingdom

Year:  2019

Runtime:  93 minutes

Red Rage will be available on DVD & Digital Download from 19th April

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Lucas Hardwick

Located in southern Indiana in the United States, I enjoy seeking out weird and obscure films. During the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine, I discovered a passion for writing about movies.

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