Just Kick the Bastard: Remembering ‘Silent Rage’

Welcome to Yippee-Ki-YAY, a regular column that celebrates action cinema in all its glory. This edition looks at 1982’s Silent Rage. 

My favourite memories of childhood are typically those I spent with my grandmother, Dorothy. Obsessed with westerns and monster movies, my grandmother nurtured my unhealthy early obsession with film. Maybe she was trying to understand the awkward grandson in front of her. Every other kid in my close and extended family was outgoing and popular, while I was always a bookworm and film buff from a very early age. We spent so many afternoons watching every movie that featured punches, kicks, shooting and explosions. If a film featured any of those things, we were there.

Michael Miller’s 1982 horror/action hybrid Silent Rage checked every single box of what kind of film my grandmother and I loved to watch together. It satisfied my love for all things horror, while also giving my grandmother what she loved: seeing Chuck Norris kick people. I thought I’d use our Yipee-Ki-Yay column as a way to write this to you, Council of Zoom readers. A look back at one of the biggest Halloween ripoff films, but one with a lot to offer.

It’s easy to just label Silent Rage “Chuck vs. The Shape,”, which it most definitely is, but to be completely honest, this film relies so heavily on the first two Halloween films, that it almost feels like a bonkers sequel to the slasher franchise. Beginning with the mental breakdown of John Kirby (Brian Libby), Silent Rage wastes no time in showing us that our antagonist is a force to be reckoned with. Taking an axe and murdering several people, Kirby is only taken down, when the town’s sheriff, Dan Stevens (Chuck Norris) shows up, throws around a kick or five and the deranged man is eventually taken down by a hail of gunfire.

What we’re then given, is a series of scenes detailing a trip of doctors, arguing whether or not to subject the body of Kirby to experimental drugs that will cause the man to heal from his wounds. While Kirby’s former doctor (played by Blue Steel’s Ron Silver in a surprisingly nice guy role) protests the use, his two colleagues (played by Death Wish’s Steven Keats and Winslow Leach himself, William Finley) decide to administer it behind his. back, bringing Kirby back from the dead and without a conscience, or the ability to be hurt. What that does, is bring Silent Rage into a completely different arena than what we were used to seeing Norris in prior to this odd duckling of a film. Kirby dons an outfit that is very similar to that of Michael Myers and begins to stalk and kill anyone and everyone who stands in his way of exacting revenge against those he deems responsible for what happened to him.

Where the film gets odd though, isn’t in how much it lifts from the first two Halloween films, but in its unnecessary montages of Norris rekindling a romance with a former lover, who is also the sister of one of the doctors in charge of Kirby. Had the budding romance been addressed earlier in the film, it wouldn’t feel so out of place. But we get an emotional montage right in the middle of carnage and it adds a jarring disconnect from the rest of the film. That said, it’s a blast to see Norris assume he’s in another karate film when a scene involving a group of bikers won’t stop being rowdy. Naturally, Chuck goes in and cleans the entire bar with their faces, also playing zero part in the film’s main storyline of an unstoppable murderer needing to be put down.

There are quite a few scenes that feel added just to get that face kick quota up, but it works in a way. Silent Rage is at its best when it makes zero sense. When things do get back on track, we’re blessed with an extended fight between Norris and Kirby, feeling much closer to the streetlight at the end of Rocky 5 that a Chuck Norris film. It’s a down and dirty scrap. If you’re feeling brave, take a shot every time Norris sweeps Kirby. You’ll be drunk by the fifth trip. The fight between our hero and our villain is one for the books and while it’s not as showboat-heavy as other Norris films, it feels like a real fight between two people, something that was rare in an ‘80s action film.

Silent Rage feels like Chuck Norris reading about the success of Halloween and Halloween II and going to see the films. Halfway through, sitting there, Norris (in my imaginary scenario) looked at Myers and said to himself, “Easy, I’d just kick the bastard.” And a year later, we got just that — Chuck Norris scrapping with Michael Myers, but in more ways than one. Bad guys on fire, bad guys falling from a balcony and getting up…this is the “we don’t like horror” crew trying to throw their hats into the ring with something that attempts to recapture what makes slasher films work, without realising the tension and music is just as important as the kicking. Though it doesn’t work some of the time, Silent Rage is an experiment just as interesting as the ones done on our fictional murderer found within the film. A rare type of film we just don’t get very often these days. One that swings for the fences and, though the ball might bounce off said fence, it’s a good hit to look at.

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