Dedicated boxers square off against trigger-happy drug pushers in Brian Clyde’s remarkably assured first feature “Rage and Discipline,” developed under the aegis of exec producer Roger Corman. Sleekly edited, briskly paced testosterone-filled face-offs build well, while the largely non-pro cast of local Gotham boxers and tyro thesps muse and glower convincingly. But pic lacks emotional focus, its tight linear structure steamrollering script’s nuanced shifts in p.o.v. and odd moral shadings. Still, classy little actioner, reportedly made for a mere $100,000, could find faithful following in ancillary markets.
Troy (Troy Johnson), a star boxer at Ike’s gym in Harlem, straddles the two worlds of boxing and drug dealing while impatiently waiting to turn pro. When he shows up late for an amateur title bout, Ike (Pete Santiago), who runs his boxing club on the one inflexible rule of no gangs, no guns and no drugs, replaces him with Andre (Dennis Cintron). Furious, Troy complains to charismatically psychotic boss Jermaine (Joe Suba) who, for reasons of his own, decides to aid Troy in his revenge against the pugilists.
As violence escalates, emphasis shifts to steady, grounded Andre, his volatile younger brother Bernard (Amin Act Joseph) and Bernard’s disaffected girlfriend Shanique (Danni Ne’ Cole), who’s being courted by drug lord Jermaine. While Andre insists on keeping all aggression within the ring, Bernard, incensed over Jermaine’s rape of Shanique, leads some of the fighters on armed sorties into enemy territory. But the boxers, far less skilled at homicide than their opponents, only succeed in upping the ante.
Helmer Clyde has a nice economic spatial control of his action scenes; he highlights haphazard impromptu movements rather than the inexorable machnery of suspense. Ringside sequences are particularly fine, the use of real boxers and lightweight 24p cameras allowing for fewer telegraphed punches and a more organic ebb and flow of energy.
Characters, however, tend to register less organically, overly defined by conflicts that in the end are not as straightforward as they seem when first introduced. Script’s overall structure poses absolute oppositions — rage vs. discipline, consensual sex vs. rape – and drops poor slobs down into a no-man’s land between these clear-cut moral extremes.
Only Joe Suba as the villain Jermaine, weirdly draped in clothing that emblazons actor’s “Suba” label, manages to capitalize on character’s out-of-the-box idiosyncrasies.
Tech credits are pro all the way.