I'd never attempt to argue that 1982's Silent Rage is a particularly good movie -- even by Chuck Norris standards -- but fans who like early era slasher film aesthetics mixed in with their martial arts action will definitely want to give this one a viewing.

You read that right -- Silent Rage is a weird hybrid of a film, one part slasher movie, one part traditional Chuck Norris chop-socky flick. It's an unusual blending of elements even by today's standards, but it was downright baffling to most audiences back in the early 80's, when slasher cinema was just really starting to take off.

Norris plays Sheriff Dan Stevens, the law in a small Texas town. He and his partner are called out to a murder scene where a mentally unstable man named John Kirby (Brian Libby) has murdered a man and a woman. Norris and his partner get the killer into custody, but he's gunned down a short time later when he tries to escape. Rather than take the killer to the morgue, he winds up at a medical institute where his psychiatrist (the late, great Ron Silver) and two medical doctors use him as a test subject for their new formula, which promotes super healing. Naturally, this works and Kirby winds up as an unkillable psychopath and it's up to Chuck Norris to try and stop him. strike>

With a set-up like this, you'd probably expect that Silent Rage would be filled with wall-to-wall action, but it's not. The movie has some genuinely suspenseful moments and the scenes where Kirby and Stevens duke it out are definitely highlights, but Silent Rage spends a lot of time sort of meandering around, trying to work in comedy and romance too -- and it just doesn't fit. When the movie focuses on its slasher/action roots, it plays a lot like John Carpenter's Halloween (it's no stretch to imagine that writer Joseph Fraley was inspired by Carpenter's Michael Myers -- another hulking, silent murder who's seemingly impervious to any attempt to stop him) and the sequel. It's in these moments that Silent Rage is its coolest, if only because even the great Chuck Norris seems like he's no match for this monstrous psychopath. This is one of those rare Chuck Norris outings where audiences are never really convinced the actor can overcome his enemy and win.

It's a shame that director Michael Miller can't keep the film focused on the main story -- opting instead for uninteresting subplots and mediocre fight scenes (the fight between Sheriff Stevens and a group in a local bar is particularly unsatisfying in its execution). Because of this, Silent Rage isn't essential viewing, but it is a film that's historically interesting for the way it blended action and martial arts cinema with the burgeoning slasher film subgenre.

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categories Features, Cinematical