STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
“Pitch? Who needs a pitch when you’ve got Michael Madsen and Natasha Lyonne? OK, Michael Madsen is crazy. There… will that do?”
Director: Ace Cruz
Writer: Chris Soth
Cast: Michael Madsen, Pauly D, Ace Cruz, Katie Fountain, Natasha Lyonne, and Michael Berryman.
“Are you gonna nibble all day, little squirrel, or are you gonna… uh, line?“
Christine (Fountain) is a wholesome young woman struggling to come to terms with a traumatic childhood kidnapping. Her Dad dies, leaving her the lush mountaintop home where said trauma took place. She decides to sell the house, inviting her friends Trey (Cruz) Jack (Derek Lee Nixon) and Molly (a puffy Lyonne) to take one last break there with her before the sale is completed. The plan was to achieve some sort of closure for her ordeal and have a little fun in the process. Unfortunately, rogue military nutbar Farragut (Madsen) has other plans.
Outrage is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It’s important that’s addressed as early as possible. Very rarely do phrases like “this is upsetting” and “that was just horrible” spring uncontrollably from one’s mouth during a film. However, that’s exactly what happens when Outrage is involved. In the right hands, even a premise as generic as this could have lead to a decent film. Things like atmosphere, suspense, and empathy count for a lot, especially when you’re playing in the horror sandbox. Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th squeezed a surprising amount of dread from a routine script. Outrage is more than just your typical horror story, though. Local bumpkin Billy (Pauly D) a life-long friend of Christine’s, spouts pseudo-spiritual garbage throughout the film. Ever since being struck by lightning, Billy’s found inner calm through “mystical Earth powers.” He espouses the benefits of a peaceful existence, a life in harmony with one’s surroundings (no more shooting squirrels for him.) Billy’s connection to Mother Earth can’t save his life – a sneaky potshot from Madsen ensures as much – but it might just save Christine’s…
O Frighteners, Where Art Thou?
Not many films can claim to be an artistic failure on every level; Outrage can. A boring story needs a punchy script, but writer Chris Soth’s lackluster grasp of dialogue, character, and just about everything else needed in good screenwriting puts paid to that. Exposition rolls off tongues, in a desperate attempt to hold the flimsy story together. Actor/director Cruz’s Trey is supposed to be a bit of a hard man, what with his military background and all. However, he displays a schoolboy understanding of common sense, never mind army shrewdness. The fact that he’s also a bit rubbish in a fight doesn’t help sell things either. Were it not for a few clunky lines to the effect of “THIS MAN WAS IN THE ARMY, YOU KNOW!” we’d be none the wiser. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this background info telegraphs Trey’s “twist” in the slapdash final act.
The dialogue on show is so suspiciously weak it’s as if scribe Chris Soth misheard his screenwriting teacher and jotted “tell, don’t show” in his notebook instead of the other way round. As with everything else in the film, its only good when it’s unintentionally funny (“Oh, I’m so sorry to bust up your ass party!”) Narrative blunders are equally poor; what better place to hide from a pursuing sniper than the middle of a deserted airport runway? Trey’s feelings for Christine are outed early on only to be largely ignored. As opposed to being used to drive conflict and exciting character dynamics, this is just another narrative strand mishandled into mediocrity. The lack of logic and competent storytelling on show is so effortlessly poor it goes straight past funny and back to irritating again.
David Caruso unavailable? Greg Dulli is your man!
The arrival of Madsen and his unkempt cronies is only mildly diverting, but it’s a welcome change from all the tawdry build-up, spiritual posturing, and supposed “suspense building.” Unless your IQ corresponds to your shoe size, you’ll know Madsen is Christine’s childhood abductor, making the inevitable reveal all the more groan-inducing. Saddled with a mediocre script and one dimensional character, Madsen’s natural charisma still delivers some menace, even though he’s clearly on autopilot. His brutal dispatching of Jack, in particular, feels like a scene from a better film. Making your antagonist’s primary drives to a) take a large sum of money from an attractive young woman and b) rape that woman as part of some spurious “right” to deflower virgins isn’t a bad way to make him unlikable. Still, it’s remarkable this is the same man who brought the demented Mr. Blonde to life.
Katie Fountain gives a spirited performance as the under-pressure Christine. Her reluctant heroine is believably desperate to get over a tough past, although she’s better at the screaming/fluttering eyelashes part of this type of role than the the trigger-happy Final Girl part. Elsewhere, the competition for worst performance is stiffer than a Keanu Reeves waxwork doll. Ace Cruz is just as ineffectual in front of the camera as he is behind it. If he isn’t looking bored and confused whilst standing around, he’s delivering lines so devoid of conviction it’s possible he’s allergic to acting. Natasha Lyonne is unrecognizably bad, a far cry from the sassy Jessica of the American Pie series. As Obeah, CHUD favourite Michael Berryman is relegated to playing, essentially, the Yoda to Billy’s bonkers Obi-Wan. This culminates in an amusing plea to Christine before his demise where he utters the closest Yoda paraphrase ever committed to film: “Your anger will destroy you…. Let go of your fear, your anger….”
Desperate for a date, Ted broke out the De Niro impression…
On a technical level, the terror keeps coming. Horrible, sepia-tinged flashbacks straight out of the amateur film-school handbook abound, making moments of “tragedy”, well… tragic. The kind of horrid, shiny cinematography usually reserved for SyFy Channel movies with names like Super Lizard Vs. Mint Dragon permeates the film. Nary a chase nor fight carries any weight or urgency and an amusing propeller fatality is too cheap to satiate even the most basic “good kill” horror/thriller requirements. The less said about every Amiga-level “special effect” the better. Oh, and what film set in Atlanta would be complete without stock banjo accompaniment?
With film-making basics such as these mangled so horribly, it’s no surprise that more complex ones such as theme and metaphor suffer a similar fate. V for Vendetta handled symbolic rain. Outrage manhandles it in the worst way imaginable. Here’s to hoping this trope finally gets that much-needed moratorium.
Even the James Bond Title Scene Bullet has to slum it, sometimes.
Injecting a supernatural element into the film isn’t a bad idea, but it’s marred by Billy’s woeful, Cletus-like mannerisms. Pauly D’s performance is the nightmare country cliché par excellence, right down to the awful fake teeth and lethargic “YEEEUP…” drawl. Juxtaposing observations about “critters” and “folk” with sub-Lucas spiritual nonsense breeds disastrous results. This is the film itself in microcosm, a muddled attempt to juggle too many different ideas with none of the talent necessary to achieve any of them. The resultant debacle isn’t even worth watching for the chuckle value. If you don’t believe me, imagine the idea that a film exists which makes Halloween 6: The One With Paul Rudd look magnificent. Scary, isn’t it? Not as scary as the reality that such a film does exist and its name is Outrage.
A miserable package fit for a miserable film. The trailer for the movie you’ll wish you could un-watch is about right, then. That the disc’s picture quality is fairly impressive actually hurts the film since it only highlights the ugly cinematography and general cheapness of the production.
A few technical issues sum up the failure that is Outrage. Firstly, the audio mix is unusually low and, at times, out of sync. Even with the film at maximum volume, I was often left straining to hear what was happening. This is beneficial, in the sense that numerous moments of poor screenwriting and acting are missed or softened, but it’s also extremely irritating. Almost as irritating as the misleading blurb on the disc’s case. Apparently, someone thought it would be a good idea to sell this film as a Natasha Lyonne vehicle, despite the fact that she’s barely in it (the case swaps Fountain’s name out for Lyonne’s as the female lead, in a blatant attempt to generate interest.) Perhaps, the same person who retroactively subtitled the film “Born In Terror”, even though this is missing from the opening title, was responsible. It’s lazy and thoroughly poor. A perfect match for this sorry excuse for a film.