Chuck Norris dabbles in the seedier side of cinema
More than any other big 1980s action star, the various titles of Chuck Norris’ films often bleed together in my brain, making it hard to recall which ones I’ve seen and not seen. Therefore I find it pretty helpful to look closely at the release dates of Chuck Norris’ films when deciding whether or not to experiment. Mid-90s or later? Maybe take a pass. Mid-70s to mid-80s? There’s a good chance you’ll find some gold.
And so it came to pass that I kind of always thought I had seen Silent Rage (easily mistaken for 1985’s Code Of Silence). Here Norris plays a cowboy-hatted sheriff named Dan Stevens. In the very same year he played another cowboy-hatted cop in Forced Vengeance, and perhaps his most widely known role was as a cowboy-hatted Texas Ranger, so please do forgive me for the oversight. But now that I’ve seen Silent Rage, I’m happy to report that it very much stands out from the pack and I’m unlikely to casually confuse it with other early Chuck titles in the future. Because, you see, Silent Rage is a Chuck Norris vehicle that veers headlong into the horror genre, and as a result feels unlike any other Norris film I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. (I haven’t seen Hellbound, which looks to experiment with a similar formula over a decade later).
Silent Rage is a prime example of a movie that entertains because of how precisely it represents the various genres it dabbles in. It’s more or less exactly the movie you think it’s going to be with just a little bit of fantasy science to push it over the finish line. Imagine Chuck Norris squaring off against Frankenstein’s monster and you’ve got a pretty great idea of what you’re in for. Dan Stevens is the perfectly well-rounded hero with a mean roundhouse, a kind heart (willing to train the comedy relief pudgy deputy and encourage him that he can be more than just the “fatty fall down” guy in a movie even when the movie mostly still relegates him to that role), and a soft spot for the ladies. He’s also got a mustache. The monstrous John Kirby (Brian Libby), he of the titular silent rage, descends from mental illness into murder, gets killed in a shootout upon his arrest, and is brought back to life with Wolverine-like healing powers by an untested serum injected by evil Dr. Spires (Steven Keats) and the more conflicted Dr. Halman (a young Ron Silver in the flesh!).
Again, all of this plays out exactly as you’d expect. Stevens breaks up some bar fights, meets a lady (who turns out to be Dr. Halman’s sister), and captures the bad guy. Meanwhile, sparring doctors debate the ethics of their experiment on the captured and mostly dead bad guy and one is revealed to be a mad scientist while the other is kept in the dark. You know it’s all leading to multiple roundhouse kicks to Frankenstein’s face… and you know that is something you have always wanted to see and are willing to wait for the final act to get. In the process you get a bunch of awesome slasher movie tropes like Chuck’s lady discovering a bunch of dead bodies around the house, an axe-murder intro, and a lumbering, silent killer giant. It’s a calculated genre blend, and somehow simultaneously gives you exactly what you want while never really surprising you with much of anything.
Overall I quite enjoyed Silent Rage and do believe it stands out mightily from Norris’ overall oeuvre. It’s more seedy and titillating than most of his work, which means I’m sure he’s embarrassed of it today and wishes he’d never made it. But I’ll take an R-rated Chuck over evangelical Chuck any day of the week. Despite standing out from Chuck’s other work, however, it really is a boilerplate psycho killer story that benefits from having a bonafide action movie legend present to shake up the formula just a tiny bit. Norris devotees and even slasher junkies will definitely want to seek this out and express their own silent rage.
Released via Mill Creek Entertainment’s line of retro VHS titles, kitschy cover art depicting VHS box art and a VHS tape sliding out of the side is essentially the only defining feature here. That said, the movie looks pretty good on Blu-ray, it’s a fun B-movie to discover, and I didn’t really mind just getting the movie itself in this case. Sure, a bunch of interviews with the talent would have been awesome. But you won’t get any of that here. This is worth a purchase for Chuck Norris devotees or action/horror junkies as it’s quite a fun slice of early-80s cheese. But this is barebones all the way.
And I’m Out.
Silent Rage hits Blu-ray 1/15/2019 from Mill Creek Entertainment