Artisan // 1998 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 13th, 2002
One man is taking control of the streets...
A rough gauge of how visceral I find a thriller is what I call the sweat test. I'm not typically a sweaty guy. My palms don't get clammy for presentations, I can exert myself a good bit before reaching the "sweat drop threshold," and sometimes I forget deodorant but I'm good anyway. When I get drawn into a thriller-type drama, I subconsciously cross my arms over my chest and pull my hands up to my sides. Who knows why this occurs. But if a thriller has drawn me in, I come back to reality afterward with damp sides and clammy hands. The highest "sweat test" scores belong to The Sixth Sense and Training Day. They kept me on edge, and Outrage gave me the same reaction.
Upon reaching the credits of Outrage, I noticed I was rather tense. There were my hands, tucked snugly under the pits. And now, a half hour later, my stomach is still quiveringly weak. Some movies just tap into the self-preservation reflex, making you feel as threatened as the main character. This movie accomplished that feat somehow. Tom Casey (Rob Lowe) gets provoked, harassed, and threatened in a very realistic fashion. It escalates to a dramatic yet plausible climax that never breaks tension.
Outrage presents us with Tom Casey, a sort of everyman. He works hard to support his beautiful and pregnant wife Sally (Jennifer Grey). He has one or two good friends, but isn't really popular. He is frugal, independent, and frustrated, with a big case of White Mans' Burden. One night he confronts some punks stealing a radio out of a car. He tips off the cops and the kids are arrested.
Yet these are no ordinary punks. They are spoiled rotten rich brats led by an attorney's son. Led by the impossibly smart and ultra-sociopathic Jeffrey (Eric Michael Cole), the gang strikes back and wreak havoc on Tom and Sally's lives. Tom must find some way out of this unrelenting siege while maintaining a shred of his old life.
This was a TV movie, but the image looked surprisingly good. The DVD cover states it was digitally mastered; hence Outrage looks better than other TV-to-DVD movies I've seen. The photography is soft and unfocused at times, but the colors are well-saturated and the blacks are deep. The transfer is clean, but there were several minor digital artifacts when people moved. It happed most often to Jennifer Grey for some reason.
Although this movie did find a way to push my buttons, and it does deal with some compelling themes about juvenile law, justice, and morality, it is not rock solid. The biggest culprit is the uninspired acting. The teen gang are cardboard clichés of spoiled malevolence. They are simply not threatening or believable. Every time Eric Michael Cole is on screen, the drama stalls and we are treated to laughable melodrama. Rob Lowe underplays the role at times, but really gives the movie a boost when he is on screen.
Outrage resonated with me. It is TV fare, but grittier and tenser than the standard TV thriller. The bad guys are lame, but the action is not. You want to see them punished, yet the world of Outrage makes justice uncertain and unlikely. The underlying theme is worrisome enough to give Outrage emotional clout.
Rob Lowe is admirably acquitted; unlike some white-man-pushed-to-the-edge thrillers, he never loses his humanity or sanity. Artisan gains the favor of the court for actually writing a useful and accurate blurb about the film on the cover.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated