Rage & Honor

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Rage & Honor (1992) follows Cynthia Rothrock as Det. Fairchild of the L.A.P.D. as she assists Australian cop Preston Michaels (Richard Norton) in clearing his name of a murder he did not commit. Luckily the real crime was captured on tape by Fairchild’s video-biographer Paris (Patrick Malone) though the tape has gone missing. Now Fairchild and Michaels have to team-up with a washed-up stock broker (Stephen Davies) and the leader of a girl gang (Alex Datcher) in order to find the tape before Fairchild’s evil brother Drago (Brian Thompson) does.

For a Cynthia Rothrock picture, Rage & Honor is pretty standard fare. The formula for Rage & Honor is pretty much Tiger Claws (1992) redux. Again the film privileges the male lead over Rothrock even though she gets top billing. Neither Rothrock nor Norton are very good actors and in the martial arts department it is obvious Rothrock is the superior performer. But in a film like Rage & Honor characterization and narrative logic are secondary to fight scenes and colorful characters.

While Rothrock is short changed, the supporting performances of Stephen Davies and Alex Datcher are put at the forefront of their scenes. These are larger than life cartoon-like characters played to maximum campy effect. Datcher in particular as girl gang boss Hannah The Hun seems to be having a field day with her bonkers one-liners and nonsensical asides. This stratagem only foregrounds the fact that Rothrock is a martial artist first and an actor second.

Before directing Rage & Honor, Terence H. Winkless helmed the cult classic The Nest (1987) for which he is best known. Winkless’ career in straight to video movies shows in the economic and resourceful direction of Rage & Honor. The script may be a mess of abrupt tonal shifts but Winkless handles these issues with an experienced hand that makes Rage & Honor one of Rothrock’s most “normal” American films.

This is a middle of the road Cynthia Rothrock vehicle that has remained significant if only for its role in making Rothrock one of the big stars in the American straight to video market. There are essentially two strands of films in Rothrock’s filmography, each stylistically vastly different from the other. On the one hand there are those films aimed at the same market as Steven Seagal movies that includes Rage & Honor and Sworn To Justice (1996) while on the other there are the nuttier Hong Kong films like Righting Wrongs (1986), Undefeatable (1993), and Yes, Madam! (1985).

What really would have set Rage & Honor apart from other Rothrock adventures is if she had more screen time with Brian Thompson. Thompson is a terrific heavy and the notion that he and Rothrock are siblings is a natural extension of B-Movie logic with hilarious potential. The fact that Rothrock loses in her final duel with Thompson is the low point of Rage & Honor. It’s a choice that makes little dramatic sense and leaves her arc unfinished.