Rage, Honor and Curtain Calls

Last lines. Those parting words that echo on as we fade to black. “Well, nobody’s perfect.” “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” "Forget it, Jake... it's Chinatown." Often a single pithy phrase can elucidate the essence of an entire film.

Consider the last line from Rage and Honor (1992). Australian ex-pat cop Preston Michaels (Richard Norton) hitches a ride to anywhere from a nameless good ol’ boy in a mustard-yellow pick-up. The trucker, in a flabby stab at small talk, inquires if the Aussie is enjoying his visit to the States. Michaels stares right through him. The trucker turns and issues a thick stream of chaw out the window. He turns back and shrugs, “Aw, who gives a shit?”

There’s not much to “give a shit” about in writer-director Terence H. Winkless’s middling effort. At its heart, it’s a story of sibling rivalry. As children, Kris Fairchild (Cynthia Rothrock) and Conrad Drago (Brian Thompson), were the victims of a vicious family assault that turned the little darlings into a pair of orphans. They were adopted by a sensei who schooled them in the martial arts. But our young Conrad, he had hate in his heart, and he took his revenge upon his parents’ murderers. This did not please the sensei - for revenge is an act without honor - and he set Conrad free to the mean streets of Los Angeles.

Flash forward two decades. Roll film. Kris is now an inner-city school teacher who also runs her deceased master’s dojo. Conrad has become a crime kingpin. He spends his days ensconced in his shady criminal lair - engaging in various forms of self-abuse, chop-sockying ice-blocks in half and bedding his psycho-sexual moll, Rita Carrion (Terri Treas). Inevitably, brother and sister will meet for one final confrontation - but in between we are treated to a convoluted plot of drugs, dirty cops, voyeurism and a lot of dull, poorly photographed fight sequences.

Brian Thompson’s sinisterly subdued performance is one of the few things to recommend here. As our leads, Rothrock is glassy and vacant - thankfully, partner Norton has his own raffish charm and he’s wisely been given all the best lines. Their comic-foil, Stephen Davies turns in a cheerily loose-limbed burlesque as Baby, a drug-addled former junk bond trader. But the film’s best moments belong to Alex Datcher. Her Hanna the Hun is the Grande Dame of a Sapphic sisterhood of lace-and-leather toughies. She plays it big: like a back-alley Eartha Kitt in a pair of torn fish-nets. She slowly savors every carefully elocuted line, letting them hang in the air with lip-smacking relish. She genuinely seems to be having fun. If only we were.


Post a Comment