Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez
Distributed by Sony Pictures
Imagine for a moment that you’ve managed to convince hot item Lucy Liu to play the lead in your brand new vampire movie. She’s also told you that she’s quite willing to strip down to next to nothing (and occasionally actually nothing) and allow her body to be drenched in blood. Given this and only this, it’s hard to imagine anything but quality goodness. You just need to come up with a reasonable plot, decent atmosphere, some tension and suspense, and you’ll have yourself an entertaining film. Maybe even a damned good one.
And yet, somehow they ended up with Rise: Blood Hunter. Those monsters!
Sadie Blake (Liu) is a popular writer for the LA Weekly who gets in over her head as she investigates rumors of a violent gothic cult dwelling in the city’s sordid underbelly. Her investigation rather quickly goes awry as she is overtaken by the cult’s leadership and turned into one of the blood sucking undead. Now cursed to be a creature of the night, she vows revenge on those who turned her.
The problems within Rise are compounded and multiple, but there’s no real better place to start than with the pacing and tempo. Director Sebastian Gutierrez is seemingly in love with really long slow zooms that go no where and do nothing. For example, there is one shot of Sadie driving, rather intently, as we focus on her determined mug through the windshield of the car. Twenty seconds later, the camera is still slowly zooming in on said mug, which is still looking determined. Fifteen seconds later, we’re finally focused on her eyes, and, man, she’s still really looking determined. Let’s stay on her eyes there for five more seconds, and, cut scene!
These energy draining long shots aren’t always the silent sort. Multiple times the camera stays when it should have long ago turned away. At one point, Liu roughs up a wayward good old boy in order to get some needed information (in which he admits to helping the cult in hopes he could score with some goth chicks (I am not making this up). After getting what she wants, she leaves him with a broken leg lying in the middle of the street. The camera stays on the lad for awhile as he begins to talk to Jesus to ask for comfort and salvation. Sadly, I don’t think this scene was meant to be funny. Egads! He’d do better asking for Jesus to take him out of this movie.
The vampires themselves are just as damning to the film as the pacing. Gutierrez said early on that he is “…not trying to reinvent the vampire movie,” and he was entirely successful in this not trying. These are a bunch of elitist and pompous self-absorbed fops with no special powers except being able to take a bullet and get back up. They do not have super strength, they are not especially more intelligent, and hell, they don’t even have fangs. It seems the power of the undead is just a thirst for blood and a big fat head. Given their lack of special powers, you would have thought that their pompous annoying egos would have gotten them killed long, long ago.
The film is rather inconsistent and seemingly blasé with its own integrity, relying on cliché and silliness to carry it forward. Sadie Blake becomes armed with a small handheld crossbow at some point in the film likely because someone in the props department had one available that their 12-year-old wasn’t using anymore. This bit of crossbow cheese is also of the magically reloading variety; Sadie shoots; cut to bolt hitting its mark; cut back to Sadie running with the crossbow still loaded to fire. Imagine what this woman could do with a wrist rocket?
Further confusing the entire mix is the fact the film isn’t even told in a linear fashion. This is a tricky practice, and should only be used when it adds something vital and necessary to the film. Memento and the disturbing Irreversible are to extreme examples of time line shenanigans (being linearly backwards). Pulp Fiction is another example where it really works and adds to the film. In Rise, the nonlinear story telling does nothing, except maybe to help to hide various plot holes. There is no good excuse not to keep this story straight.
The DVD release of the film comes along with a very modest selection of extras. Included are few rather brief behind the scenes featurettes that extol the film’s blend of sex and violence, the special effects and make up, the locations chosen, and the stunt work of the movie. There are also a few storyboard to scene comparisons as well as the obvious trailers and previews for other films.
If Rise is a bad film, which it is, it at least doesn’t sink to the level of being offensive to most people (except for maybe goths, wayward good old boys, vampires, the LAPD, Mexicans, prostitutes, nipple ring wearing Dungeon and Dragon players, and crossbow enthusiasts). Lucy Liu looks great in the movie, though it certainly leaves you worrying for her career. This film is really only good for those vampire film completionists who have to see everything; everyone else, stay away.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5