Ex-con Ray (Bautista) is working as a doorman when a group of armed men force their way into the club where he’s working and open fire, killing the owner’s son. While Ray has been trying to go straight, he finds himself being blamed by his boss for letting the men into the club and told he must find the robbers. As he digs digger, he starts to realise the police are as dirty as the mob that surrounds him, and his own criminal past makes him a prime suspect in the case. Ray struggles to solve the crime and to clear his own name, while also attempting to protect a beautiful young woman (Amy Smart).
There’s a lot of potential in House Of The Rising Sun, with a decent cast that includes Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell, Crank’s Amy Smart and Machete’s Danny Trejo. The lead role goes to former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, who puts in a surprisingly creditable performance as a hard man with a soft heart. I doubt he’ll be winning any Oscars, but he’s a decent enough actor for a film that prizes drama above action, but is also able to get his fists out and kick some ass when the script calls for it.
However much of the movie’s potential is dashed by a slightly amateurish feel. There’s a sense that the behind-the-scenes talent’s ambitions outstrip their abilities. It’s a film that strives to be taut, intense and gripping, but which feels like it’s just missed the target on nearly every score. Simple things like allowing a supporting actor to slow down the film by overacting (when all they need to do is get the lines out to move the plot on) or editing choices that end up confusing the audience undermine what in other respects is a potentially decent little thriller. Likewise the script starts out extremely well, before losing track of what it’s doing about a third of the way in and descending into repetitive, clichéd territory.
However perhaps the real crime here is having a man mountain like Bautista onboard and nobody around who really knows how to choreograph a fight scene properly or shoot one. Even the look of the film feels cheap, which doesn’t help.
The DVD includes an okay ‘making of…’ featurette, which confirms that everyone was working with the best of intentions, and some cast and crew interviews.
Overall Verdict: House Of The Rising Sun starts out well, but the intensity quickly dissipates into dullness, despite the best efforts of a decent cast and a crew who don’t quite have what it takes to pull this sort of thriller off.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac