Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

When we saw the movie ‘Wrong Side of Town’, a piece of suspect cinema to be sure, we did mention that WWE superstar Dave Bautista was damn good in his brief appearance in that movie and if ever there was a cat who was action star ready out the box… he’s the one. What I didn’t say was, after watching his movie ‘House of the Rising Sun’, ‘if ever there was a cat primed to carry a movie by playing a sullen, sad, weak, muscle bound dude… who doesn’t really use those muscles… who can’t really fight… he’s the one.’ I said ‘Action Hero’ not ‘Acting Hero’. I can see where something might’ve gotten lost in the translation.

Ray (Bautista) is working security at a Grand Rapids speakeasy when some thugs bust in and rob the joint. While this robbery was going on I was thinking that this gigantic mountain of a man was going to decimate these criminals, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was that a young man was killed in the skirmish, the son of club owner Vinne Marcella (Lyle Kanouse), and he wants vengeance. He figures Ray can use his investigative skills, considering he was a cop before he was busted for being filthy and all, to find these shooters.

Ray has a number of problems on his journey to justice for this guy. For starters, they shot this movie in G-Rap in the dead of winter and Dave Bautista really doesn’t seem like he likes being cold all that much. Then there’s major asshole and club manager Tony (Dominic Purcell) who despises Ray for some reason and is doing everything in his power to counter Ray’s efforts to solve this crime. Ray has an ex-girlfriend named Jenny (Amy Smart) he’s none too happy with because 1) she became prostitute when he went down and 2) she started dating Ray the Asshole. Ray has issues with his ex-cop buddies who hate him, such as asshole cop Det. Landry (Tim Fields) who has made it his life mission to crush Ray, and then there’s Ray’s ex-cop partner in crime Jimmy (Brian Vander Ark) who treats ray like he has a really bad case of the cooties.

So Ray goes on his journey to find these shooters, but wherever he goes, dead bodies seem to follow. Worst still is that everything is pointing right back to him. The dead bodies, the robbery at the club, global warming… everything.

Somehow, with the help of his whore of an ex-girlfriend, Ray has to unearth who is behind the conspiracy and hopefully clear his already sullied name. If we’re lucky, a fist fight or something shall ensue.

So in addition to having Bautista in this movie, a guy we have already declared as ‘Action Hero Ready’, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ also has amongst its cast FCU favorite Craig Fairbass and the ubiquitous Danny Trejo which heightened our expectations a bit for this hopeful action thriller. Then toss in some gratuitous strip club nudity and as this film opens up, and we are confident that at the very least we will be in store for some fast moving, action filled, over the top explosive nonsense.

Instead what director Brian A. Miller’s film ‘House of the Rising Sun’ gave us was something closer to a ‘Law and Order’ style police procedural. Think something along the lines of a gritty police drama such as ‘Serpico’ with professional wrestler Dave Bautista standing in for Al Pacino and a first time director subbing in for the late Sydney Lumet. Despite our grand hopes for Bautista’s future acting career, you can see why this approach might not work. This leads us to another one of the films issues, because while Bautista is obviously no Al Pacino, as far as the performances in this movie goes, his was probably the best one. Dominic Purcell seemed oddly miscast as the heavy, possibly because the audience is more in tune watching the actor play a string of pathetic sad sack roles, Amy Smart seemed bored, Danny Trejo and Craig Fairbass had almost next to nothing to do in the movie and the rest of the supporting cast members struggled to keep up with Bautista.

Miller did get the most of out of the gritty, cold setting that Grand Rapids served up for him, though it is a shame that our state government has basically gotten rid of the film tax incentives so I probably won’t be seeing too many of these types of films shot in Michigan in the foreseeable future. And the story, based on a novel, did have some promise, but with the slow pace of the film, the gross misuse of a potential action hero, and not to mention the suspect performances offered up, the movie didn’t have much of a chance. Plus I’m unsure what the title actual meant. I know Japan is the land of the rising sun, but if there’s some sort of corollary between that and this film’s title, it went completely over my head. And while I’m sure Dominic Purcell could probably kick my ass, watching him layout the 6’4" 260 pound Bautista over and over again bordered a little on high fantasy.

Hopefully with Bautista’s next movie role we’ll see the Action Hero that we know the man can be. I said ‘Action Hero’, not ‘Acting Hero’. Just want to make that clear.

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