"It's the Rage" can be described many ways. It is a compelling drama, yet has a number of comedic elements. It is somewhat of an ensemble film, but features some tremendous individual performances. The only way that one cannot describe this film is to call it subtle. This is, from the opening credits to the epilogue, a film with a blunt message and that message is about the allure, the dangers and the prominence of both rage and guns, and how extremely deadly the convergence of the two can be.
The film ultimately works due to the many great performances in the film featuring Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels, Anna Panquin, Andre Braugher, David Schwimmer, Gary Sinise, and Robert Forster. Especially great are Joan Allen as Helen Harding, and Sinese as the eccentric computer genius who has sought to avoid the rage that the nonstop influx of information from everywhere in the world can cause. While these two actors can be relied upon to put in impressive performances, they still manage to rise above expectations. While the character requires Sinise to go over the top, he does so with just the right amount of restraint. Also, because a number of the actors are, as the Director points out in the commentary track, cast drastically against type, a number of the actors, and Daniels in particular supply entertaining and enjoyable performances.
The plot is fairly complex in its development, and it is not always predictable. The many interactions between the characters is intriguing, (According to the Director, the subtitle to the title of the film is "Six Degrees of Aggravation".) Although the film ultimately succumbs to its own overkill, (the epilogue continues the story of both the characters and their weapons) the film is still entertaining. The director, James Stern, manages to inject humor in a number of scenes throughout the film, even if surrounded by scenes of tragedy or struggle. While his performance is not one of the better ones in the film, one of the film's best and funniest scenes involves Giovanni Ribisi at a shooting range, literally screaming such lines as "Go Ahead, Make My Day!" and "Hasta La Vista Baby!" as he fires his gun with pure rage at the target.
While, despite its stellar cast, this film managed to make it through its theatrical release with little fanfare or success, it is definitely worth watching. The message of the film is blunt, its only subtleties are among the many ways in which that message is conveyed (the commentary clues the viewer in to a number of scenes in which references, both explicit and implicit are made to Quentin Tarantino's films and their obvious infatuation with gun-related violence.
"It's the Rage" is presented in Anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ration of 1.85:1. The transfer of the film looks quite good, on par with Columbia Tristar's other DVD releases. There are a few scenes in which the print appears a bit dirty with a few random specs becoming visible, particularly during one of the film's final scenes, involving Joan Allen. It does not substantially affect the viewing of the film, however, and, despite these occasional spots, the transfer of the film generally looks good and is easy to enjoy.
"It's the Rage" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The film's sounds and dialogue are always clear and the viewer need not adjust the volume while watching the film. The sound on both the film itself, and the director's commentary track is extremely clear.
Although the film contains impressively comprehensive cast and crew biographies, a trailer, and a 13 minute behind the scenes featurette, the truly impressive portion of the DVD's bonus materials is the commentary of Director James Stern. The commentary track covers the editing decisions, the justification for casting the characters against type, the many references to other works in the film, and as one may gleam from the number of times it is mentioned above, it is extremely informative. Stern has a lot to say about the film and the changes made between different versions of the film. In the opening moments of the film, Stern clues the listener in to the fact that this film is actually based on a play which was performed at Chicago's Goodman Theater in 1997, that the director's college roommate was shot and killed (the film is ultimately dedicated to him), leaving the director searching for a way to make a comment on gun violence. The commentary stays fresh and interested and definitely adds a lot to the film.
For the film's bluntness in the expression of its message, the film is ultimately an enjoyable one, made much better by the performances of the actors and actresses brought in. While this is a difficult film to classify, it is definitely worth watching and after watching, the commentary track is not to be missed.