Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Frank Review of "Rise: Blood Hunter" (2007)

The Short Version? Vampire chick hunts them what turned her.
What Is It? Action/Horror.
Who's In It? Lucy Liu. Michael Chiklis.
Should I See It? No.

Blade, the movie adaptation of the Marvel Comics vampire hunting character, could have been a more respected and influential film. It was forward looking in its use of wire-fu set to dance music, and was the first decent Marvel movie, until The Matrix wiped its ass with Blade's innovations.

While watching Rise: Blood Hunter, I could have sworn I was also seeing a comic book adaptation, but this is supposed to be an original creation. It trades out Blade's gender and minority, but most of the same beats are in place. There's a convoluted origin story offering a tragic role for the protagonist's mother. The hunter stalks the glam-rock wannabe white male vampire who was responsible for their affliction, aided by a blond female sidekick. Both are mentored by older male characters with an agenda, who helps arm them with tricked-out weapons. Both are captured in the third act, bled nearly dry through contrived means, but escape to exact their revenge. So I guess you can say Rise: Blood Hunter is essentially Blade, but pussy-whipped.

For starters, Sadie Blake is an intrepid reporter in the Lois Lane mode, until she falls prey to the vampires. Sadly, she then goes from long, attractive hair to a shoulder length style that kind of looks like a 70s ethnic Lois variation. In fact, much of the film seems to be modeled after that decade's exploitation cinema and low-rent genre television. Despite the promise of martial action, the Blood Hunter mostly just wanders around town, investigating the whereabouts of the vampires. Her longest fight sequence is against a late-middle-aged Asian man who gives her way too much trouble. Instead of high kicks, Blake tends to just shoot toothpicks at people with her wimpy little collapsible crossbow. Sunnydale would have eaten her alive inside a week.

Also like grindhouse fodder, Rise promises sex and violence, but the nudity is sparse and discreet, while blood effects are all the gore you should expect. It's all so tepid, it'll make you long to revisit Ultraviolet. Certainly, the film could have used a believable action star. I know Lucy Liu gets a lot of work as a dragon lady, but I've never been able to get past what an obvious put-on that is. I usually only buy Liu when she's more bubbly, as in Lucky Number Slevin or Charlie's Angels. On the other hand, Liu's dramatic moments are outstanding, as she deals with the shock, revulsion, alienation, and depression that comes with her condition. These elements are also among the silver linings of the movie, as the combination of vampire hunting and chick flick isn't common.

Michael Chiklis gets the thankless part of Steve Trevor to this half-pint Wonder Woman. Anytime Chiklis and Liu share screen time, I wondered who seriously thought there was going to be any chemistry there. Chiklis on his own is even worse, mouthing the tired alcoholic-driven-cop lines you've heard a million times, without any seeming conviction.

Carla Gugino is laughably bad as the blond femme fatale Eve, looking tired and out of place. I can't recall much about the actor playing the main villain, except that he was neither Stephen Dorff nor Stuart Townsend, but might as well have been. Robert Forster and Marilyn Manson are buried in here somewhere, if playing "Where's Waldo" for two hours sounds like fun.

The most interesting thing for me was following the strong current of misandry running though the script. Sadie goes to great lengths to save a female victim at the beginning of the film, but brutalizes and feeds off of a host of men over the running time. There's an odd tenderness to how Sadie relates to Eve, the woman most responsible for her predicament, while her relations with every male is marked by aggression, assault, and murder. As I recall, every major male character tries to kill her at least once, even her "partner" played by Chiklis.

In closing, Rise: Blood Hunter deserved its direct-to-dvd dismissal, but has some weird subtext and a few interesting ideas, if you really must watch another vampire slayer picture. Otherwise, you can surely find better ways to kill time.

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