Is it a slasher flick, or is it an action flick? Silent Rage, the 1982 Chuck Norris shitfest, hailing from his mustache era, is both. From director Michael Miller, Silent Rage sees Norris playing Sheriff Dan Stevens in some small Texas town. Stevens does his best to keep the town a nice, safe, and quiet place, but early on in the film tragedy strikes.
A disturbed man by the name of John Kirby (Brian Libby), suffers a psychotic break and butchers a middle-aged couple. Sheriff Stevens arrives on the scene to take Kirby down, and the fight ends with Kirby going down in a hail of gunfire. But that’s not the end of Kirby. Miraculously, he’s still breathing after being filled full of lead, and heroic efforts from Kirby’s doctors, Halman, Spires, and Vaughn (Ron Silver, 1970s and ’80s That Guy actor Steven Keats, and William Finley, respectively), save his life. Only, the good doctors cheated a bit.
Spires has been developing a new drug that enhances cellular regeneration, or something, and Kirby survives only because he was injected with it. The drug is experimental, and injecting Kirby was very unethical, so the doctors keep Kirby’s recovery a secret. The drug turns out to be effective beyond the doctors’ wildest imaginings. Not only does Kirby survive, he develops super-healing properties — his body closing wounds with no scarring almost instantly. It appears that the treatment has turned Kirby indestructible. It’s a good thing he’s in a coma, then.
Meanwhile, in the other part of the movie, Chuck Norris is still enforcing the law in his little town. He does so with the aid of his comedic sidekick, Deputy Charlie (Stephen Furst). Charlie’s purpose in this film is to provide a direct contrast to Sheriff Stevens. Stevens is brave while Charlie is timid. Stevens has the body of an athlete while Charlie is overweight and soft. Charlie follows Stevens around like a puppy or a toddler. All he wants is to grow up big and strong like Sheriff Stevens. For his part, Stevens supports Charlie. He wants to see Charlie become a better policeman. This support and confidence was part of Chuck Norris’s brand back then. Hard work, dedication, and above all optimism, are all it takes to make oneself a better person. It’s not a bad message, to be honest, but the uplifting message behind Stevens’s and Charlie’s interactions is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
Back at the hospital, Kirby awakes from his coma, and it seems that he wasn’t satisfied with the killing he did earlier in the film. He needs more, so he sets out and begins killing anyone he finds. By the end of the film, the two disparate storylines come together for resolution and denouement, but it’s almost as an afterthought.
Parallel plots that converge in the final act are nothing unusual in film. But in Silent Rage, it’s more like two different movies come crashing together in the climax. Yes, Stevens and Kirby were both battling each other at the start, but after that the movie diverges so much that Norris’s storyline barely touches Kirby’s at all. One half of the film is setting up a horror flick, while the other just sort of meanders along as a weird rural buddy cop flick, with nothing all that substantial occurring. It’s among the strangest filler for a movie I’ve ever seen. Of course, by the end, Stevens and Kirby have it out in a decent enough finale, but from a filmmaking perspective, it was a calamitous journey to get there.
This film is a star vehicle for Chuck Norris, and the best way to do that would have been to showcase his fighting skills, and not his acting skills, of which he had none. But most of Norris’s screen time is character development. He chats with Charlie and carries out a creepy romance with love interest Alison (Toni Kalem), and for more than a half hour of running time (unconscionable), Norris doesn’t kick anyone’s ass. In a film that has so much filler, it would have been nice if Michael Miller and company could have crammed in another fight scene or two. As it is, there’s only one big fight sequence before the film turns its attention back to the main plot, and it’s a shitty movie doozy between Norris and a bar full of bikers. Potential viewers know already how this scene goes.
It’s frustrating to see this movie plod along. As a shitty movie watch it has moments of sublime cinematic ineptitude, but for the most part it’s a film in search of a reason to continue. I would swear sometimes the actors are waiting around in a scene for the screenwriters to come up with something for Norris to do.
My personal favorite moment of shitty was in the costuming choices for one of the minor characters. She’s a biker mama played by Linda Tatum. She wears a revealing vest, which is nice, but the filmmakers chose to place a pair of tattoos right on her breasts. Only, they’re not tattoos. They are very clearly stickers. And not good ones. They look like they came out of the vending machines next to the exit of the Piggly Wiggly. That’s some amazing cheapness.
Even the police uniforms are cheap. They’re just off-the-rack blue dress shirts and chinos. Except for Chuck Norris. He’s always wearing a pair of his brand-name Action Jeans, cut with extra room in the crotch for when one really needs to deliver a roundhouse kick to a biker’s face.
There are questionable cinematographic choices made in this film, as well. The one that stands out is a sequence where Kirby approaches a house in POV. Only, early on in the shot, Kirby crosses in front of the camera. So, who’s POV are we supposed to be seeing? Little moments of cinematic inconsistency are scattered throughout this film from start to finish. There’s also some very poor stunt work, which is surprising in a film starring a skilled martial artist. Not all the stunt work, mind, but enough to be noticeable.
The shittiness of the film does make it entertaining, overall, for the shitty movie fan, but one must show some patience at times. Silly, stupid, outrageous, dull, and just plain bad all at the same time, Silent Rage is not as good as Alien: Resurrection, but it could have been were it not for all that filler.