Mix "Blade," a dash of "Point Blank," and one of the worst movies you could imagine, and that's pretty close to capturing the experience of viewing "Rise: Blood Hunter."
Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) is a newspaper writer basking in the success of her first cover story on the local hipster scene. What she unwittingly enters as a result of the article is a dark cult of vampires (led by Eurotrash acting expert James D'Arcy) who don't enjoy the publicity and they soon turn her into one of their own. Now undead, Sadie marches across the city hunting down those who tried to kill her, aided by a belligerent cop (Michael Chiklis, in a huge acting stretch) who wants the clan wiped out as well.
From the first frame, it's hard to believe "Rise" was intended for the big screen. The picture plays more like a rotten Sci-Fi Channel Original, cursed with a stunningly low-budget production value and murky cinematography that at one point isn't even in focus (there's no way John Toll shot this, I don't care what the credits say). The film looks cheap, ugly, and derivative of other direct-to-video horror cinema that litters the rental fields. So how did this garbage attract Lucy Liu?
Perhaps the actress was swayed by the chance to play a tough gal; an aggravated soul with an itch to take few prisoners on her path to revenge. It's a crime Liu just doesn't have the moxie to play this alt-weekly reporting, bloodsucking hard-ass (did I just write that?). She's fluff in a role that requires a thunderclap of authority and bodily freedom (the film takes great care to hide most of her nudity), and her threats come across as mere suggestion rather than venomous demand. Liu "gets" the tragedy of the character to a very mild degree, but she never opens her soul or straps on her edge. She's a blank slate, even though there's so much oddity surrounding her worth responding to.
Filmmaker Sebastian Gutierrez (one of men responsible for the flop "Snakes on a Plane") doesn't quite direct "Rise" as much as he tries in vain to hold it together. It's a sloppy film, taking horror, obvious stabs at noir, and procedural cues from better films to create its own mythology. Sadly, nothing seems to gel: the vampire backstory is barely touched upon, the characters roll in and out of the tale without any sort of fanfare or introduction, the score sounds like a kitten fell on a Casio, and the action is limited in imagination and obvious in execution. I can't imagine this is what Gutierrez was shooting for when he was initially hired, but, then again, his involvement with "Snakes on a Plane" only furthers the argument that the filmmaker should perhaps seek other vocational opportunities.
Also, for whatever reason, the film is chock full of the semi-famous, leading me to believe this picture was primarily financed by favors. In other words, this is probably the only chance you'll get to see Marilyn Manson, Simon Rex, and Nick Lachey in the same movie together. Yay?
For its DVD release, "Rise" has been restored to its original intent in this "Unrated, Undead" edition. As one of the 23 people who saw the theatrical cut of this dreadful film back in June, "Rise" has been relieved of its chronological burden; the picture is now a scattershot, dreamlike mess of scenes corralled to suggests a fractured mindset for our embittered hero, but comes off as an amateurish stab at artistic legitimacy with unsavory B-list ingredients.
The roughly 25 minutes of bluntly edited reinstated/reworked footage doesn't add much grace to "Rise," and the deletion of some needed expository theatrical cut scenes is a bad idea in the long run. Certainly Gutierrez wants his viewer in a state of confusion, but a disorderly structure to the picture is not the way to achieve it. Unfortunately, "Rise" doesn't benefit from this new polish.
Of course, nobody actually had the chance to view the theatrical cut in the first place, so new viewers take heart: the film is just as awful at 121 minutes as it was at 94.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Rise" features a limited noir color scheme, which the DVD reproduces better than expected. Blacks are stable, and the disc handles the copious amount of night sequences very well. The DVD looks better than the film did in theaters.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix takes advantage of the film's twitchy horror content, with heavy use of aural atmospherics and dread. The dialogue and music are adequately separated, but the emphasis here is on the sound effects.
A collection of short behind-the-scenes featurettes are presented (8 minutes), covering special effects, the lustful appetites of vampires, location scouting, and stunts. Use of costume test footage, B-roll, and interviews with the cast (Lucy Liu's conversation still has a time code stamped on it) and crew are included.
Four storyboard-to-screen comparisons (18 minutes) offer a glimpse of the unremarkable production process.
A theatrical trailer is included, along with trailers for "Resident Evil: Extinction," "Boogeyman 2," "Hostel: Part II," "Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud," "Closure," "Urban Justice," the avian horror film "Kaw," "Ghost Rider," "The Company," "First Snow," and commercials for Sony's Blu-Ray collection and the "Resident Evil & Resident Evil: Apocalypse Deluxe Edition" DVD.
"Rise: Blood Hunter" is a tiresome genre exercise without any leadership or production quality to speak of. How this throwaway stab at a vampire franchise made it to theaters is a mystery to me, but its proper home is in the rental arena, where it'll be lost in the merciless cattle drive of mind-numbing DVD junk in no time.
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