The title of Rabia (Rage), and the presence of Guillermo del Toro among the film’s producers, raises your hopes for a movie that writer-director Sebastian Cordero has absolutely no interest in delivering. Although the picture is nominally the story of a man with a murderous temper, it is less a thriller than a metaphor for the plight of illegal immigrants and the upper-class families who employ and often exploit them without pausing to think of them as human.
Things begin rosily, with construction worker Jose Maria (Gustavo Sanchez Parra) and housemaid Rosa (Martina Garcia), South Americans living in Spain, canoodling cozily in bed. When they walk down the street, two auto mechanics make lewd remarks about the beautiful young woman; Jose later returns and beats them up. And when his boss fires him, Jose attacks and accidentally kills him.
Without telling Rosa, Jose holes up in the upper floors of the sprawling mansion where she lives and works — an estate so large that he can live there undetected, sneaking into the kitchen to raid the refrigerator while the aristocratic family dines, or using a secondary phone line to call Rosa and tell her he’s OK, just not where he’s hiding.
Ironically, the most intriguing characters in Rabia are not the lovers but the imperious, dysfunctional Torres family, whose constant quabbling and bickering at least gives the film some dramatic momentum. But Cordero can’t resist the clichéd temptation to demonize the wealthy and make martyrs of the poor (that the Torreses can’t detect a stranger living upstairs is supposed to be a metaphor for the blindness of the rich to the working class).
Rabia has some impressive camerawork and lighting by cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and it occasionally threatens to take an unexpected, intriguing twist but then repeatedly backs down in favor of more flimsy melodrama. This may be the first film ever made about the seething rage of the disenfranchised that succeeds in lulling you to sleep.
Cast: Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Martina Garcia, Concha Velasco, Xavier Elorriaga, Alex Brendemuhl.
Writer-director: Sebastian Cordero. Based on the novel by Sergio Bizzio.
Producers: Alvaro Agustin, Rodrigo Guerrero, Guillermo del Toro.
A Strand Releasing release. Running time: 95 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Vulgar language, brief nudity, sexual situations, brief violence, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema