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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: House of the Rising Sun

July 16th, 2011

House of the Rising Sun - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

House of the Rising Sun is a low-budget action film starring a former wrestler turned mixed martial artist. Expectations are thusly lowered. That may be a bit premature, but it's better to go into a movie with realistic expectations and be pleasantly surprised than go into a movie overly optimistic only to be disappointed. So will House of the Rising Sun be a pleasant surprise? Or will it fail to live up to modest origins.

The Movie

Dave Bautista stars as Ray, a former cop who was sent to prison after an an internal affairs investigation. Now that he's on the outside, he's working as part of the security at a mob-owned underground casino / strip club / brothel. The film starts with the place short-staffed as one of his guards, Walter, went out for a smoke break and hadn't returned ten minutes later. Ray has to cover the front door as a result, but when he tries to clear out a man puking in a trash can, he's ambushed by a group of men robbing the place. The robbers clearly had this planned out, but things go sour and Pete, the mob boss's son, is killed.

Obviously the mob is not happy with the robbery or the death, and since Ray was a former police detective, he's put in charge of the investigation to find out who did it. However, at the same time Detective Landry, the former I.A. guy that put Ray away in the first place, is looking to pin the blame on Ray. Now Ray has to find a way to clear his name by figuring out who really did it. There are a lot of suspects, including his ex-girlfriend, Jenny Porter; her current boyfriend / rival in the mob, Tony; a crime boss, Carlos, who also has ties to the casino.

What follows is less an action film and more of a suspenseful thriller, or at least an attempt at a suspenseful thriller. It feels like a rather tame episode of the average police procedural TV show. For a film starring a wrestler, there's surprisingly little action. Most of the movie is spent watching Ray drive around and talk to various people, or tries to, as a lot of his leads are dead before he gets there. It's gets a little repetitive and rather dull. It doesn't help that there's no surprise twist in the movie. The guy that's the obvious bad guy turns out to be the bad guy. If there's no mystery, there's no suspense. Some of the actors are good in the movie. Danny Trejo is always solid, but his role here is incredibly short, while Amy Smart wasn't bad and was arguably the biggest selling point of the film. On the other hand, Dave Bautista isn't exactly a seasoned professional in his new field, while more than a few secondary performances were a little wooden. This really dragged down an already weak film.

I guess one could give the film props for trying to be more than just a mindless action film. Given the setup, the movie could have just been 90 minutes of Ray beating the crap out of people in highly unrealistic fights trying to find the man who framed him. Unfortunately, while aiming high, the film fell short.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD starts with an audio commentary track with director Brian A. Miller and actor David Bautista. It's not a bad track, but unless you are a real fan of the movie, there's little reason to spend the time needed to watch it a second time. Next up is a 9-minute making of featurette and finally 12 minutes of interviews with the main cast and the director.

I don't have the Blu-ray to review, but given the nature of the film, I have my doubts its worth $5 more to buy.

The Verdict

Do you reward a movie for trying to be more than mindless entertainment, but failing? That's the dilemma I'm left with after watching House of the Rising Sun. If you go in hoping to see Dave Bautista punch his way through wave after wave of nameless bad guys looking for the person who wronged him, you will be disappointed. However, if you go in looking for a really engaging mystery, you will also be disappointed. The DVD and the Blu-ray have more extras than a lot of direct competition, but there are far too many better options out there.

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Filed under: Video Review, House of the Rising Sun