Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rise: Blood Hunter (unrated) – review


Director: Sebastian Gutierrez

Release Date: 2007

Contains spoilers

I remember reading much bad press about this and so, having watched it for this review, I did some checking. It seems, on its very limited theatrical release, the producers decided to cut the film into a 94 minute, linear action flick. This was not the original vision – however the DVD, as a 122 minute, non-linear noir is the original vision. This explains why it got bad press, why I enjoyed it when others had seemed to hate it and why, most importantly, producers should learn to keep their meddling fingers out of films and just provide the money (as a general rule and not an absolute).

As I mentioned (and will again) this is a non-linear film, so it will be quite hard to précis the start of it as it does move around in time somewhat. I propose to look at the first few scenes, however. We begin in a bar and prostitute Collette (Cameron Richardson) approaches businessman Lloyd (Robert Forster). Their transaction is interrupted by Sadie Blake (Lucy Lui), who gives the girl money to go with her.

She takes Collette to a house, has her strip and then, after a brief kiss, makes the prostitute wash her hands. The soap is in the shower area and the unit closes like a trap around the girl and the shower head drops. We see Collette inverted, tied and gagged as a man in a wheelchair (Allan Rich) enters. He tells Sadie she can have her information, the whereabouts of Bishop (James D’Arcy), after he has fed. A slap reminds him that this wasn’t the deal and he gives her an address. Sadie kills him with a crossbow, releases the girl and, for a moment, collapses to a bed.

Sadie wakes up deadCut back in time and Sadie awakes in the claustrophobic confines of a steel box. She kicks out and the door opens, and a pallet with her on it is released. She is in the morgue, wearing naught but a toe tag and sporting a wicked wound upon her neck. She walks to a mirror and sees that she has no reflection. Sadie is one of the undead.

Cut further back in time. Sadie is a journalist who has hit the front page for her expose of youth vampyre culture. She is taking a few days to take her sister on a vacation. She is contacted by co-worker Ethan (Kevin Wheatley) who has found a further link in her story. A young girl, Tricia (Margo Harshman), had given her a phone number that didn’t work. Actually it was part of a web address and Ethan has hacked through to find a cryptic, semi-religious slogan and a map of Korea Town. The story is dead and she ignores the lead.

Sadie is fed upon by EveAt the airport she sees a newspaper report, Tricia has been murdered. She heads to Korea Town, to the address, and finds a basement that seems to be a bloodbath. She is grabbed outside but released and heads to Ethan’s. His apartment is trashed and she is abducted and taken to Bishop (James D’Arcy). He questions her, using Ethan’s severed head as a persuasion tool, and then he and a woman, Eve (Carla Gugino), take Sadie to a room, cut her throat and feed upon (and rape) her. Her body is found, dumped, by the police. At the scene is Clyde Rawlins (Michael Chiklis), a cop who is drunk and not meant to be at the crime scene - Tricia was his daughter.

Michael Chiklis as ClydeAs the film progresses – actually that is untrue as the film, in its non-linear way, less progresses but unfurls – we see Sadie’s torment as she awakens, her quest for revenge and her teaming up with Clyde. This isn’t done in a cheesy way as there is little in the way of trust between Clyde and Sadie, indeed the relationship, as the film, could be said to be portrayed in a gritty manner.

vampires have no reflectionThe vampire lore is interesting. As I have said, they have no reflection and they need blood. They are already dead and thus cannot die, except by a piercing of the heart. Sadie uses a crossbow with silvered bolts and one assumes that is what is needed to do the job. Sunlight is not a major issue. We see Sadie in daylight, she steals shades, so her eyes are sensitive, and seems wobbly – but she is newly emerged from the morgue at that point.

a knife is used, not fangsThe vampires do not have fangs, instead they slit the throat. The little knife that Eve and Sadie use put me in mind of The Hunger. They are fairly easily knocked out, they do regenerate but it takes time and they do not seem super strong – Okay most people couldn’t kick open a morgue’s body cabinet door or a car boot from the inside, but stronger is not ridiculously strong.

James D’Arcy as BishopBishop is the leader of the vampires, coming across a little like Deacon Frost from Blade. Let me make it clear, however, that this film has been likened to Blade – this is the only similarity as far as I could see. There is a strange affectation when Bishop has a glass of wine, in that he blesses it – although this fits in with the way he treats vampirism as a cult, with him as the leader.

Sadie's deathWe hear that it normally takes three days to turn someone into a vampire. Sadie did not go through the process, she was dumped and then somehow completed the process herself.

a messy eater makes for a gory filmThe film, as I said, is gritty and it is very much a noir. The biggest plus it has is its non-linear nature but that might also be a minus for folks who do not like to think. Actually the non-linear nature really helped the pacing and prevented the two hour film from becoming slow. I can see how it would not work in a linear fashion – it was never designed for that. The cinematography is excellent and there is a fair bit of gore.

the first feed was suitably harrowingLucy Liu is excellent as Blake, running through a gamut of emotions which, due to the non-linear nature again, we can see very clearly from scene to scene. Perhaps she was a little too earnest in places but that is a minor quibble. Let us be clear here, Sadie is no vampire good guy, she is a vigilante assassin getting revenge; she still feeds her own needs. There is a particularly dark and harrowing scene when she has her first feed in a homeless shelter – there is nothing romantic as she opens up flesh with her teeth, ripping slowly into it to get to the blood.

D’Arcy is good as Bishop, carrying just the right level of malevolence and charismatic enough to come across as a cult leader. Chiklis plays the haunted cop, but I feel that is probably what he does best (I am not too aware of his work to be honest).

Carla Gugino as EveIf I had a problem with the cast it was in the under use of Gugino as Eve. The character was interesting and Gugino is a great actress. When on screen she sparkled as a femme fatale but that screen time was limited. I should mention the bartender, he didn’t stick out too much and it was only after watching the film I realised it was Marilyn Manson – kudos for not over-egging the cameo.

I really enjoyed this film, a dark slice of life and certainly not the turkey I had read about. If you were unlucky enough to see the butchered version then I’d say give the DVD a go – I’m hoping you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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