Directed by Michael Miller
Produced by Anthony B. Unger
Written by Edward D. Lorenzo and Joseph Fraley
Chuck Norris is best known today for that Internet phenomenon known as “Chuck Norris Facts” which attribute all kinds of superhuman feats and godlike acts of toughness to him. I think that if Bruce Lee were still alive or if Jim Kelly were still active in the movies and martial arts, they would be the subjects of that meme and not Chuck Norris. But there’s no denying that for most of the 1980’s Chuck Norris was one of the most prominent action stars of that decade, faithfully cranking out one movie after another for Israeli filmmakers Menahem and Yoram Globus and their Cannon Films. Matter of fact, it seemed as if Chuck Norris had a new movie coming out every week, so quickly was he making them.
I’m pretty sure I saw SILENT RAGE back in the day as during the 80’s I went to the movies at least twice a week and I’ve seen just about every Chuck Norris movie made during that period. Yes, even “Invasion U.S.A.” and “Firewalker.” But for every stinker he made, Chuck Norris also came out with some pretty damn good ones that still hold up today such as “Lone Wolf McQuade” and “Code of Silence.” And then there’s the movie we’re talking about now; SILENT RAGE which for my money is the goofiest movie Chuck has ever done. He never made one like it since, which is a shame because there’s a lot I like in this one. The best way to describe SILENT RAGE goes like this; imagine if “Halloween” had starred Chuck Norris instead of Donald Pleasance. SILENT RAGE blends martial arts and science fiction with the slasher movie genre better than you might think.
One bright sunny day in a small unnamed Texas town, mental patient John Kirby (Brian Libby) loses it and takes an axe to the family he’s been living with. He’s subdued by Sheriff Dan Stevens (Chuck Norris) after an extremely brutal fight where John Kirby demonstrates superhuman strength fueled by his bloodthirsty psychotic rage. It isn’t until he’s beaten up half a dozen cops, broken his handcuffs and kicked his way out of a police car that somebody finally gets the bright idea it might be better to shoot the shit outta this sucker and get it over with.
John’s psychiatrist Dr. Halman (Ron Silver) shows up and takes the body back to the hospital. Amazingly, John is still alive even after being shot numerous times. Halman’s boss, Doctor Spires (Steven Keats) sees this as an opportunity to try out his experimental drug. Spires believes he can genetically modify a human’s DNA so that a human’s natural healing process will perform at an accelerated rate. Spires pumps John full of his homemade funky cold medina and indeed, John’s wounds heal themselves in seconds.
Halman isn’t so sure this is such a hot idea. He recommends that Spires destroy John Kirby before he gets loose as there is no way to cure or curb John’s homicidal rage. And now that he is for all intents and purposes, indestructible, he’s the perfect killer. Quite naturally, Spires doesn’t see it this way and in fact, thinks he can use John to get rid of a few obstacles in his way to being rich and famous and that includes not only Dr. Halman but Sheriff Stevens as well.
SILENT RAGE is quietly astonishing in that I could easily believe this started out as a straight up-and-down slasher movie because so many of the tropes of the genre are put to use. You’ve got your indestructible killer who can seemingly appear and disappear. And is apparently psychic since he can expect where and when his victims will be. You’ve got your sympathetic characters who get killed while trying to do the right thing. You’ve got your false scares where you think the killer has jumped somebody only to be followed by the actual scare. You’ve got your indestructible killer being put down by a hail of bullets only to get back up and resume his killing. And you’ve got your idiots who even after they’ve seen this guy get shot and get up numerous times still insist on turning their backs on him.
What sets this apart is of course, Chuck Norris, who has no business being in the slasher genre yet amazingly plays all of this absolutely straight. We get to see him use his martial arts skills on a barroom full of rowdy bikers but that’s only the warm-up for the fight we really want to see: Chuck against this unstoppable killer who can’t be hurt or killed.
In order to eat up the running time until this final conclusion we get the subplot with the rowdy bikers and Chuck’s romancing of Dr. Halman’s sister (Toni Kalem.) What’s really interesting about this romance is the strong suggestion that Stevens simply banged her for fun and just walked away without a word. That’s a far cry from the usual Chuck Norris character who is virtually saintly in his dealings with women. I also can’t remember a Chuck Norris movie where F-bombs were tossed around so carelessly and so many bare boobs were shown. Chuck even gets a sex scene in this one. Now, we’re not talking swinging from the chandelier here but let’s face it, in most Chuck Norris movies, romance and/or sex isn’t a priority.
Even the casting is eclectic for a Chuck Norris movie. I’ve mentioned Ron Silver and Steven Keats. Now, you may not be familiar with Steven Keats by name but go Google a picture of him and I bet you’ll slap yourself upside da haid and go; “I know that guy!” William Finlay who plays The Phantom in Brian DePalma’s “Phantom of The Paradise” is in this one as is Stephen Furst who we all know as Flounder from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and Vir Cotto on “Babylon 5”. There’s also Lillette Zoe Raley whose name you don’t know but who provides the movie with its best special effect. If you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean.
So should you see SILENT RAGE? I certainly think so. If you’re a Chuck Norris fan you probably already have seen this but if you haven’t, give it a try. The sheer goofiness of seeing Chuck Norris in a slasher movie is worth your time. I know I wasn’t bored and I don’t think you will be either.