A sweet-and-sour look at a rebellious seg of modern Romanian youth, “The Rage” lives up to its title for much of the going with its grungy portrait of restless Central Euros. As the main characters go on the run halfway through, film starts to click as a more affecting drama, though there’s still nothing highly original here for students of Balkan cinema. Festival showings look likely for this interesting, rather than head-turning, first feature by Radu Muntean, with some action on specialized cable.
After “forgetting” to deliberately lose an illegal car race, young buddies Luca and Felie are hauled in front of gypsy gang leader Gabonu and told to pay back the $7,000 in 24 hours, or they’re pig feed. After raising a third of the (huge) amount by selling a reconditioned car with fake mileage, the friends run out of ideas — until Luca bumps into an old high-school friend, Mona, who’s doing a cheesy modeling gig in a mall.
Luca gets the idea of paying off the debt by offering Mona as a present to Gabonu’s favorite, a male singer looking for an ideal bride. But after getting her drunk and spinning various tales about a video he’s planning to make, Luca temporarily loses Mona when she takes off in fright at the arrival of Gabonu’s violent goons.
Mona and Luca end up on the run together, and she starts to fall for him. However, she still doesn’t realize, amid all their plans for moving abroad, that Luca still intends to betray her.
Largely thanks to Dorina Chiriac’s perf as the cute but tough little Mona, the film develops into a quirky love story, with darker undertones, that’s quite affecting. Scenes between the two leads are less hard-edged than the rest of the film, and shot in a softer and more visually composed way, contrasting with the tough first act, in which modern-day Bucharest seems to be entirely populated by sectarian gangs or rioting ruffians.
However, helmer Muntean seems unwilling, or unable, to develop the characters’ relationship beyond a certain point, weakening the final resolution. A bleak capper sends the characters largely back to square one.
Pic is mostly set in real locations of an unattractive nature, but technically, film is pro at all levels.