Kevin: So Mike, a lot of our readers are probably wondering why, of all the better-known movies in the Chuck Norris catalog, we are choosing to Tag Team the relatively obscure 1982 thriller “Silent Rage.” Well, it’s because this is the description for the film you came across while flipping through the channels a few months back: “Chuck Norris as a small-town sheriff against a psychotic killer, a motorcycle gang, and three mad scientists.”
I think we’d both agree that any one of these elements by themselves would be enough for us. Hell, I’d take just one mad scientist, but three! Alas, that synopsis may have set our expectations a little too high. For one thing, these are not exactly “three mad scientists,” more like “two misguided scientists and one conflicted clinical psychologist.” Also, the motorcycle gang is as central to the plot of this film as was the suicidal jumper Riggs dealt with in “Lethal Weapon;” i.e, they needed to pad the runtime and add an action beat. All that being said, I’m kind of surprised at how under-the-radar this is for an ‘80s Norris flick, considering it is competently made but also entertainingly bonkers around the margins.
So the movie begins with an impressively long one-shot take which follows the psychotic killer in question, named Kirby, as he starts to spin out and eventually murder his landlord and another tenant at a house where he is renting a room. Chuck Norris then shows up as the town sheriff and eventually subdues him even though we soon discover that Kirby is unusually strong (also there is a great moment where this huge dude sneaks up on Chuck right in the middle of an open field thanks to the fact that Chuck absolutely refuses to turn to his right, a weakness he will exhibit several times during the movie). Now even though he has been handcuffed and placed in a squad car, Kirby breaks his cuffs through sheer strength and kicks the police door off its hinges, after which he is gunned down by Chuck’s many deputies.
Around this time Ron Silver shows up as some kind of neurologist/clinical psychologist who apparently has been treating Kirby, and they take him to Silver’s institute to operate on him. What’s the name of this institute you ask? I don’t know, they never say, they just call it “the institute.” It seems to be some sort of research lab/psychiatric institution, but their doctors/scientists also have operating skills. Either way, I’m not sure why they took Kirby to this place versus a regular hospital.
Now not knowing much about the movie going in, I had figured that Kirby was some sort of science experiment gone awry when he started killing those people at the beginning and exhibiting super strength. But nope, apparently he was just some large dude with anger issues and serious roid rage (think of a slightly scarier Ben Roethlisberger). But when he is on the operating table and close to death, Silver’s other two colleagues (including one played by Charles Bronson’s pansy son-in-law from “Death Wish”) are all, “Hey this guy is in pretty good shape, why don’t we try our experimental formula on him?”
At which point the third doctor goes into a janitor’s closet and comes out with a glass full of what looks like grape juice, but as we discover later has the power to basically turn Kirby into Wolverine, since he is now virtually unkillable and can heal any wound in seconds. Now let’s reiterate, it’s not like we are talking about some elite Nobel-caliber scientists working at the CDC or MIT or something. These are three guys who are operating out of some clinic in what appears to be a small town near Dallas, yet somehow in their spare time they have created the key to immortality, which they keep in an unlocked closet in a boiler room and deploy on a whim on some guy who probably is the last person you would want with this power.
Before we go further, should the movie have given us a little more backstory on these guys and their experiments, or did you find it refreshing Mike that it spends zero time trying to get us to buy into the idea that these three dorks in Shitsville, Texas somehow created this evolutionary game-changing discovery?
Mike: Originally billed under the phrase “Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him. He’s an indestructible man fused with powers beyond comprehension. An unstoppable terror who in one final showdown, will push Chuck Norris to his limits. And beyond.” If you can read that description without doing an impression of legendary trailer narrator Don LaFontaine …
… then you should really rethink who you are as a person, because people probably don’t like you very much. Also think about this for a second, in 1982 Chuck Norris was so beloved that his actual character’s name didn’t even matter. They were just billing him as “Chuck Norris!”
I have to agree with you Kevin about how much is going on here for such a small Texas town. It’s a tiny one-light speedtrap, yet it’s home to a mysterious “institute” that is leading the way in genetic research. It’s drawn the attention of a biker gang, and it’s the killing ground for an unstoppable lunatic who for some reason feels the need to be sneaky even though he can’t be killed. Why is he always tip-toeing around? He can make all the noise he wants, nothing can stop him. Bullets, water, fire, car crashes, he’s good to go no matter what, so why all the subterfuge?
Honestly, I went into this film expecting to hate everything about it. I didn’t even like the picture on the front cover that portrays Chuck Norris as some kind of deaf Amish guy, but the second I saw a dead Ron Silver hanging by a bathrobe hook I was officially all in. Poor Ron Silver, he’s the only “professional” actor in this movie, and god bless him, he actually did everything in his power to treat this as a serious work despite how retarded the story is. There’s a lesson for Hollywood in there someplace: even if your movie is completely ridiculous in every way, if you treat it seriously and you hire quality actors to come on board and act, they can save it!
Anyway, enough of the cinema studies bullshit, let’s get back to what we came here for: talking about Chuck Norris the pervert. Chuck plays “Sheriff Stevens,” although no one ever calls him by name. But whatever you call him, this guy is a real asshole: he sexually harasses women, ignores advice from doctors, allows his horrible deputies to continually put other people’s lives in danger, and he has sex out of wedlock.
Kevin: Before I get to that, did you notice that in the scene where Chuck is just hanging out shirtless in the institute’s waiting room, the doctor who talked to him had like a comically dubbed Italian accent? For a second I thought this might have been one of those Sergio Leone-type films where it is set in America but filmed in Italy.
Anyway, let’s get back to the first of many #MeToo violations by Chuck in this, starting with his ex-girlfriend Alison, who he runs into at the institute and who immediately slaps him when she sees him. Now both Chuck and the movie treat this as an amusing little moment, but in real life I think we would assume that either she is a psycho or Chuck did some pretty heinous shit in their relationship (I’m guessing something involving the back door). Either way, while Chuck is talking to Ron Silver, we find out that she is Silver’s sister, which both Chuck and Silver are surprised by. Hold on, are you telling me that in a small Texas town that appears to contain fewer than 500 people, Ron Silver had no clue that his sister was engaged in a tempestuous and possibly sadomasochistic relationship with the town sheriff?
(Also, the actress playing her did almost nothing of note after “Silent Rage” before getting a recurring part on “The Sopranos.” I’m surprised she never took off, she has all the raw sensuality of Joyce DeWitt from “Three’s Company” with 10 percent more charisma.)
Then while she is giving Chuck a ride back to the station and he is practically feeling her up from the passenger seat, we find out that they broke up six years ago and haven’t seen each other since. Once again, in a town this small, are you telling me there is no way they crossed paths at all? Especially since Chuck seems DTF at all times, and this chick is not exactly a rough putt. By that I mean the movie does the cutesy thing where she is all “Look buster, if you think you’re gonna get me in bed you have another thing coming,” after which we transition to a shot of them in bed after Chuck has obviously been coming. Also because this movie came out at a better time in American cinema we get a completely gratuitous shot of her breasts.
Now I had assumed this would be the only love scene, maybe because I was so used to the fact that Chuck Norris usually had no time for the ladies in his films. But nope, later on after she has told him she doesn’t want to get back together, she makes an impromptu booty call at his house (and I have to say I was not expecting this kind of decor from a small-town Chuck Norris-type sheriff).
Then we get an even longer love scene, which includes a post-coital shot of Chuck and his lady in bed, along with a very professional-looking wine, cheese, and fruit basket. We also get several more shots of our lovers hanging out, and no matter where they go the basket goes with them. Also note that when Chuck is in his refractory period, he is wearing the tightest fucking jeans you’ve ever seen. Does he not have a robe? Maybe some boxers? Does he have some weird OCD type of thing where as soon as he climaxes he has to throw on his super tight and starched Levi’s?
Mike: When Chuck and Alison are going at it in the montage set to some song called “It’s The Time for Love,” featuring the very professional-looking wine, cheese, and fruit basket you mentioned … I mean, that whole scene was straight out of “The Naked Gun”:
It too also entirely took place in one day. Whatever Chuck did to her in the past must not have been that dastardly considering it took her less than half a car ride to not only forgive him, but jump right back into bed with him AND agree to a weekend trip at the lake. By the way, I would have died laughing if Chuck would have mentioned that after she found her brother killed and hanging up behind the bedroom door before they were set to leave. “Great. I guess this means our trip to the lake is OFF!” “Chuck my brother is dead!” “So is my boner ALISON. SO IS MY BONER!”
Also, Ron Silver’s wife was a horrible artist. At one point she’s just painting a sunny-side-up egg.
Kevin: Before I go further, I didn’t realize how many thoughts I would have about Ron Silver and his wife. For one thing, forget about her sunny-side-up egg painting Mike, what the fuck is that other painting to the right? If some special-needs kid painted that you would pat them on the head and then wait for them to leave before tossing it in the garbage.
As bad as her art is, I will say that I appreciated that Ron’s wife was very apologetic about the fact that she didn’t have dinner ready for him when he got home and that she had to order pizza instead. And then rather than expecting HIM to go pick it up after a long day of pleading with his fellow mad scientists to kill their morally and ethically dubious genetic breakthrough, she goes and gets the pizza instead and lets him relax. Man Ronald Reagan was right, it really was “Morning in America” back then.
(Also, I’m always pleasantly surprised when a brilliant scientist ISN’T the stupidest person in a movie, especially when they are not precious at all about killing their creations. Actually Silver has by far my favorite line in the film when he yells about Kirby, “I never thought I’d say this about a fellow human being, but that sucker’s better off dead!”)
Now I can’t believe that “Silent Rage” didn’t become a beloved film in the gay community considering we get shirtless shots of Chuck Norris AND Ron Silver, in the latter’s case when he is walking into his kitchen while still putting on a T-shirt. It didn’t look like he had taken a shower or anything, he obviously just changed clothes, so I’m not sure why he was in such a hurry that he couldn’t put on his shirt at any point from his journey from his upstairs bedroom to the downstairs kitchen. Also as with Chuck, Ron’s idea of slipping into something more comfortable at the end of the day is squeezing into a pair of tight jeans.
And apparently he just couldn’t wait for that pizza, as he slices off a piece from a bologna log so big it could feed a starving family in Siberia for about three years, and for some reason he uses what appears to be a miniature samurai sword to do so.
Anyone reading this can probably guess what happens next, but I like that when his wife gets home there is a great scene where she enters a hallway and looks to the left and right, and just as she is about to leave she finally notices her dead husband like three feet away from her on the ground.
And yes I also envisioned Chuck being somewhat perturbed about the double murder of his lady’s brother and sister-in-law ruining their trip to the lake. I have to question Chuck’s dedication to the job however. When he asks Alison for a ride earlier in the movie, he tells her he needs to get back to the station. Instead he negs her into sleeping with him, so I’m guessing he never got back there. Then later he spends all day sexing her up and is ready to keep that love train rolling the rest of the weekend at this supposedly awesome lakehouse we never get to see. Did he even bother letting his deputies know? Who is his next-in-command, because I hope it’s one of the 20 deputies who randomly appear and disappear during the movie when needed and not Stephen Furst.
Mike: On that note, my initial takeaway from “Silent Rage” was that the title wasn’t describing Kirby, the speechless unstoppable maniac on a killing spree, but rather Chuck Norris, who must continually bite his tongue while somehow trying to manage the most inept police force captured on film since “Dexter.” Seriously, these small town deputies are some real world-class goobers. To put things into perspective, Flounder from “Animal House” is the second-best cop in town after Chuck!
He’s also pulling double duty as the sole element of comic relief, and he’s actually not entirely terrible. My favorite part is when he walks into a bar the bikers have taken over and screams, “Alright all you motherfuckers, up against the wall!,” and then 25 seconds later he’s completely mesmerized when the one biker babe shows him her breasts.
Kevin: At the beginning he just appears to be set up as a typical incompetent comic relief, including when he almost shoots his own boss while trying to apprehend Kirby at the beginning. Although let me just say that I hate when movies think it’s funny that someone who is responsible for the safety and well-being of the public is dangerously incompetent. They even had that trope in last year’s shitty “Baywatch” reboot, where The Rock never shuts up about how awesome and elite his lifeguard crew is, but then he gives a coveted spot to some fat guy who only wants to join because he has a crush on a female lifeguard, because The Rock says he “sees something” in him. Yeah, he’s seeing all the lawsuits he’s gonna get hit with because this clearly unfit person let someone drown.
Either way, back to Furst. Forget incompetent, I soon started thinking he was perhaps dangerously mentally handicapped when he started telling Chuck a heartwarming story about the time he got a new puppy, but he got it dirty while playing it with and first tried to wash it off in the toilet, and then thought about putting it in the dryer. My anxiety about where the fuck this story was going didn’t even begin to lead me to think it would end with him putting the puppy in the freezer, including a shot of Furst re-enacting the terrified expression the puppy had on its face when it was found frozen to death.
During this disturbing conversation, Furst also basically tells Chuck that he’s always been a helpless coward all his life and he’s worried that when the time comes for him to prove himself he won’t be able to do it. Great, so why the fuck did Chuck hire this loser?! It’s not for a lack of manpower, since at various times when Chuck needs back-up we see around 25 deputies show up, but otherwise he’s decided this fat load is the guy he wants watching his back at all times.
Furst doesn’t exactly step up later when they confront the biker gang in the bar. Now going back to these guys, let me ask you Mike, how often in real life do you think an actual biker could get away with going through multiple redneck towns in the south, at a time when cops didn’t have to worry about cell phones and surveillance cameras, and walk right up to the head sheriff and announce he’s going to fuck up his jurisdiction without being immediately arrested and later “hanging himself” in prison?
Either way, Chuck eventually has to intervene when they take control of the bar in a way not unlike how the creatures did in “Gremlins.” Actually these guys might be able to multiply like gremlins as well, since there are only three of them when Chuck first comes across them at a diner, while later at the bar there are now like 40 of them. I wondered where the bartender was until we finally see a shot of him tied to a post, although after Chuck kicks the shit out of all bikers (including their leader, who tries to escape by driving his hog through a window), both he and Furst walk away without checking on him or untying him.
But back to the beginning of this sequence, The biker babe with the tattoo of lips over both tits flashes them for Furst, and he instinctively reaches for them like he’s been hypnotized, and then when Chuck tells him to go outside and call for back-up, he lets his boss deal with the entire gang on his own while he instead tells a fellow deputy over the radio that he’s in love and wants to ask her out. I would seriously question how someone this dangerously useless and incompetent could ever get a job in law enforcement, until I saw the Broward County cops in action.
Now you would think this would all lead to him eventually stepping up and showing his mettle at the very end. Nope! He comes across Kirby and is immediately overpowered. Chuck finds him and cradles him in his arms like Daniel Craig did to Eva Green in “Casino Royale,” and Furst goes fully Lenny from “Of Mice and Men” when he is all, “He hurt me, he hurt me real bad” before dying in Chuck’s embrace. I honestly don’t know if we as the audience were supposed to be upset about this, but if I were a taxpayer in Chuck’s jurisdiction I would be very happy this idiot is no longer around to shoot me by accident.
Mike: I’m totally with you, I also never find it funny when they have comic relief in the form of someone who is supposed to help people but instead is completely negligent on all counts. He almost kills Chuck Norris in the beginning! Chuck looks at him and he shrugs and they never mention it again. They never mention how he almost killed another officer in the line of duty by accident!
And yeah Flounder’s death scene was comedy gold. Kirby put him in a bear hug, squishing all his bones and organs into a fine paste, then he died in Chuck’s arms. After that we get the final confrontation between Chuck and Kirby. Now let me get this straight, bullets couldn’t kill Kirby, fire couldn’t kill Kirby, experimental drugs couldn’t kill Kirby. But falling down a well? Yeah that should do it, let’s just go on about our business guys!
Kevin: Speaking of the end, actually were you as surprised as I was by the trajectory of this movie? I assumed that Kirby would escape the institute and start a killing spree and Chuck would spend most of the movie tracking him down. Instead he just sneaks out and kills Ron Silver and comes back, and then he kills the other two doctors after they again make the mistake of talking about killing him like five feet away from him while he pretends to sleep. Chuck doesn’t even know the same guy he thought he killed at the beginning of the movie is behind all of this until 10 minutes left in the movie. Then he fights the guy for a while before tossing him down a well and walking off with his lady, whereby the credits come up and the movie is over.
That’s it? So is he dead? Based on what we’ve seen so far that wouldn’t have killed him. Is he trapped down there forever? No clue. Listen I like in some ways the usual M.O. of Chuck movies – especially his Cannon output – of throwing up the credits as soon as he offed the last bad guy, but this isn’t some definite ending like when he blew up Richard Lynch with a rocket launcher in “Invasion U.S.A.” …
The makers of “Silent Rage” raised some major questions with this Kirby guy that they needed to answer with much more of a resolution than this!
Mike: “Silent Rage” is such a weird, amazing movie. Funny story, I was watching “Hot Fuzz” at 2 a.m. a few weeks ago while I couldn’t sleep because I was in a panic over the course of my life. Anyway, in “Hot Fuzz” Nick Frost’s character is looking through the DVD bin at some discount store and he picks up a copy of “Silent Rage,” and it made me feel good to know that there were others out there who still appreciated this flick.
Kevin: Hell even if just you, me, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are the only four people on earth who appreciate this nutty flick then that’s still pretty good company, but if you are reading this then hurry up and watch this thing and join the club!