So let’s say I ask you the age-old question, “Who would win in a fight between Chuck Norris and…” And before I even finish, you say, “Chuck Norris. Of course. He’s allowed to talk about Fight Club.” But then I say, “How about him against an ax-wielding psychopath who’s preternaturally strong?” You’d naturally respond, “Don’t make me giggle! Norris would win by hitting the guy with the third fist he hides in his beard.” A fair point, but I retort with, “What if said psychopath is given gene therapy to make him heal even the most fatal of injuries instantaneously and heightens his strength further?” What’s that? Got nothing now? Well, believe it or not, this exact question posed by 9-year olds everywhere was asked and answered in 1982 by the I-can’t-believe-it-exists movie, Silent Rage.
In 1982, slasher movies were all the rage and the icons from them (Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and the like) were adorning merchandise all over the place. Also around this time, tight-jeaned and cowboy-hatted Chuck Norris was picking up steam in his one man screen war against faces. Some foresighted genius decided that the world was ready for these two cinematic juggernauts (used liberally) to collide and for the world to weep tears that turn into bald eagles. Who better to helm this showdown than a guy who’d go on to direct a ton of TV movies based on Danielle Steel novels? Oh, that’s right; literally anyone. Add to that a cast of people who don’t even belong in the same zip code, much less the same film, and you’ve got this.
At the beginning of the film, John Kirby (Brian Libby), a mentally unstable man living in a loud boarding house full of kids, calls his psychiatrist at the local loony bin (Ron Silver… I’m not even kidding) to say that he’s reached the end of his tether. It’s a mite too late, though, because before the shrink can show up, John goes to the shed, grabs an ax, and hacks up his landlady and another random tenant. The landlady screams loud enough (to peel paint) that someone calls the local P.D. and Sheriff Dan Stevens (who will henceforth simply be called Chuck Norris) and company arrive to apprehend the insane guy. He’s, for some reason, super strong, and breaks his handcuffs and kicks the door to the police car off its hinges. Despite Chuck Norris’s assertion that he could roundhouse him into submission, the other police shoot Kirby to death with every bullet in the county.
Silver, who is also apparently a great surgeon on top of being a psychiatrist, tries to save Kirby, but unfortunately he and his colleagues cannot. One of them gets an idea, though: It seems the three doctors have secretly developed an elixir designed to speed up a patient’s healing and recovery. By all means, let’s give this to a deranged murderer. Crackerjack idea, that. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, it works (alert the Nobel council!) and Kirby’s wounds start healing at a near-instant pace. Which is great because Kirby’s still brain dead. OH, WAIT! No he’s not; he gets up and starts stalking and murdering people while wearing a jumpsuit for no reason. Now it’s up to Chuck Norris to do the work no gun or knife could: kill the unstoppable killing machine. How and why a town big enough to have a giant, well-funded mental institution would have a small town sheriff who plays by his own set of rules is totally beyond me. It’s absolutely incomprehensible.
This movie is all over the shop. It has zero idea what kind of movie it wants to be. It’s like they had four different unfinished screenplays lying around and decided to slam them all together and call it Silent Rage, despite the fact that that title means absolutely nothing. The meeting must have been as follows: “Obviously there’s the slasher movie, which takes up most of the film, but we need something for Chuck Norris to do while Kirby’s killing people so how about he’s reuniting with an old girlfriend and they’re falling in love again and having sex scenes and stuff? But, he can’t do that all the time so we’ll give him an overweight and inept deputy played by Dorfman from Animal House with whom to have funny dialogue. But this is also Chuck Norris, and he needs to beat the crap out of guys, so throw in a couple of scenes about a violent biker gang he can dispatch in an enormous bar brawl. Oh, and since we have Ron Silver, we should have plenty of scenes for him to be riled up and Actor’s Studio-y with the other mad scientists. We good? That’s literally every idea for a movie I’ve ever had.”
Director Michael Miller ripped off every horror movie trope from the previous five years forSilent Rage. There’s the POV stalking cam of the bad guy, there’s a scene where he hacks a hole in a door big enough for his face to fit through (he doesn’t say “Heeeeere’s Johnny,” unfortunately. Shame since his name actually is John), we get the hiding-behind-the-door scene, and even the walk-as-close-as-possible-to-the-bad-guy-without-realizing-it scene. It is, if you’ll excuse the unintentional pun, the hackiest directing work I think I’ve ever seen. And what’s even weirder is, when he’s shooting fight scenes, he could not be more boring. Like he’s never even seen a fight in a movie. His fight cinematography seems to be “Point a camera at it.”
Finally, though, after a lot more movie than I’d expected, we get the obligatory scene where Kirby and Chuck Norris duke it out, mano-a-psycho. In a development surprising to no one, Norris holds his own and even manages to knock Kirby out thrice, despite Kirby having been shot a dozen times and completely immolated in a car explosion mere moments earlier. Bullets and fire are one thing, but steel-toed cowboy boots; who could withstand that? Also, though Kirby has killed with near impunity up to this point, he’s completely unable to punch through the human granite pile that is Chuck Norris. Not to spoil anything, but the fight ends exactly how you think it would.
Silent Rage is a preposterous hodgepodge of genres, tropes, and worn-out situations. But it also features Chuck Norris fighting a superhuman, and hence is a must-watch. Crack open a cold one or six and mock, imbibe, and enjoy.