House of the Rising Sun (Blu-ray)
HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN is standard straight-to-Blu-ray and DVD fair from Lionsgate. It’s not train wreck terrible (which can be fun), but it is uninspired and incredibly confused. This is another attempt to turn a professional wrestler (Bautista) into an actor. But Bautista is no Dwayne Johnson. And that’s about all you will get from it. The actors seem to think they’re making an important action/thriller/noir film. Maybe that’s where they go wrong – the movie just doesn’t ever decide that it’s going to be anything other than a mish-mash vehicle for Bautista to showcase his “talent.” No, it’s not that… it’s the cast, all mismatched to their roles. Or maybe it’s the filmmakers. It’s probably all of these things, because the whole movie feels like amateur hour.
One of the first things I learned in film school was that a director should NEVER use something technical (quick cuts, steadicam-to-handheld transitions, sharp angles, etc) to FORCE the audience to feel something. If people aren’t involved and invested in the characters and the plot, they’re not going to get there because you shake the camera around or tilt it ninety degrees. These elements should be used to enhance the mood – not set it. This lesson was obviously lost on Mr. Miller. The movie slides back and forth between mediocre and completely inept. Maybe the right word is workman-like.
Ray Shane (Bautista) is a former dirty cop who spent five years in prison and now works security for a mob family’s primary strip club/illegal gambling establishment/brothel. Did you catch all that? Too much? That’s essentially the set up, achingly and passively delivered throughout the film as we learn more about Ray. The club is robbed and Ray is set to take the fall. One of the mobsters trying to capitalize on this situation is Tony, played by Dominic Purcell (PRISON BREAK). I’ve enjoyed Purcell in smaller roles but I don’t understand what he wanted to accomplish here. Ray’s former girl, Jenny (played by Amy Smart of CRANK fame) is a former call-girl who dated Tony while Ray was in prison. Really? Isn’t that a tiny bit too convenient for the story? Not here. Thankfully Smart is the one actor who underplays her scenes so that they are palatable even though the dialogue is terrible.
The film was based on a novel written by a former cop, Chuck Hustmyre. Brian A. Miller (the Director) co-wrote the screenplay with Hustmyre, which was probably a bad choice. You would think that a story from a former cop would at least get the cops right… but not here. The cops are awkward in pretty much everything they do. It’s hard to suspend disbelief when you watch a movie like this; it’s unclear where the movie takes place, the mob family seems disconnected. Purcell plays a slight New York accent, one mobster is British, and the brothers at the head of the family are Carlos (played by Danny Trejo who takes it WAY too seriously) and Vinnie (an Italian caricature).
I guess I talked myself into it. It is a train wreck.
Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) I don’t think High Definition does anything for this film. It should be gritty but instead feels smooth and flat.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1) The sound is surprisingly well done, given the rest of the presentation.
Commentary with Director Brian A. Miller and star Dave Bautista: A bit on the technical side. It’s always nice to hear an actor and director sitting and watching the movie and talking about it, especially when they care about the movie as much as these two. Miller takes some digs at the book and original screenplay – he’s obviously very happy about his changes to the story. Bautista doesn’t bring much to the commentary but seems like a sweet man.
The Making of House of the Rising Sun (09:21) A pretty standard feature, it’s interesting to see a low budget group of filmmakers discuss their big movie. Note to director: the camera is focused on the background during your interview. You, friend, are blurry. It’s annoying.
Interviews with cast and crew: The interviews shot for the “making of” featurette are included here in their entirety. Lots of clips of the film with few interview moments. A waste.
- Director Brian A. Miller – (02:38) mostly quick shots from the movie, not much actual interview footage.
- Dave Bautista – (04:03) A better set of discussions with him, Bautista seems a genuine and likeable character.
- Amy Smart (03:33) Snippets from the film and quick take interviews.
- Danny Trejo (01:38) Most important snippet: got his first job in film when he joined a friend at a Hollywood party to score some coke. Thanks Danny.
Theatrical Trailer (red band edition) is included on the disc. (01:55)