Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rise: Blood Hunter

Yeah, I don't really know what that title means either. In fact, not much about 2007's RISE: BLOOD HUNTER rates very high on the comprehension scale, and I'm afraid we're seeing the true colors of writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez. I liked his first film, 1998's JUDAS KISS, which was an unusually cast crime drama with some style. Carla Gugino, then best known for her short run on the sitcom SPIN CITY, and Gil Bellows were part of a gang of kidnappers who murdered the wife of a U.S. senator, putting Louisiana cops Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson on the case.

Gugino became Gutierrez's muse on- and off-screen, as he went on to direct her in the cable thriller THE SHE CREATURE, write a script for her KAREN SISCO television series, and co-star her once again in his third and most recent film as a director, RISE: BLOOD HUNTER. Samuel Goldwyn Films dumped it into a few dozen theaters for two weeks over the summer. Hardly anyone saw it, and its U.S. advertising campaign (that poster is from the Japanese release), which focused on Lucy Liu (CHARLIE'S ANGELS) as its sole star, didn't help it (sorry, Sam, but no one has ever gone to a movie simply because Lucy Liu was in it). As a writer, Gutierrez's name appears on the box-office flops GOTHIKA, THE BIG BOUNCE and the fun campfest SNAKES ON A PLANE, and it's beginning to look as though JUDAS KISS was a fluke, rather than the beginning of a promising career.

It doesn't help that RISE, which played theatrically at 94 minutes, is not only nearly a half-hour longer on DVD, but has also been re-edited out of chronological order, making an already confused storyline play incomprehensively (there's even a dream sequence inside a dream sequence). The material just isn't strong enough to hold up over two hours, and Gutierrez doesn't appear to know how to use his cast, which isn't bad for a junky vampire movie.

Liu plays Sadie, an L.A. WEEKLY reporter who is turned into a vampire by Bishop (miscast James D'Arcy), the leader of a small sect of bloodsuckers. Unlike most of her new kind, Sadie doesn't take kindly to being a vampire, forced to kill innocent humans to feed. Custom-built crossbow in hand, Sadie reluctantly teams up with a drunken cop (THE SHIELD's Michael Chiklis), who accuses her of being the murderer of her daughter, a crime actually committed by Bishop.

As you can see, the plot is rather thin, which would be fine if it was faster and made more sense. Hell, the film barely even identifies most of its characters; the name of Chiklis' cop comes as a throwaway during the climax, and when Liu mentions someone named "Harrison," I had no idea who she was talking about until the credits rolled. The prologue featuring iconic Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN) as a horny conventioneer (who gets a laugh), Cameron Richardson (NATIONAL LAMPOON PRESENTS BARELY LEGAL) as a hooker who is stripped and hung upside down, and veteran character actor Allan Rich (SERPICO) as--I think--a perverted vampire immediately gets the audience scratching its head in confusion.

I don't know who Gugino is playing; she's a vampire named Eve who helps Bishop turn Sadie, but Eve's motivation is weak, and the character accepts her fate surprisingly calmly. Gugino's part is such a throwaway (one could say the same about most of RISE's name actors) that one wonders whether Gutierrez removed footage from his longer "Uncut, Undead" DVD version. Also (barely) appearing are Samaire Armstrong, Nick Lachey, Marilyn Manson and the late Mako (THE SAND PEBBLES) in his final role. No movie ever got better by hiring good actors Carla Gugino and Robert Forster (who played daughter and father on KAREN SISCO) and giving them nothing to do. I kept wondering how RISE: BLOOD HUNTER would have been with Gugino playing Sadie. Actually, I know. Not good.

1 comment:

TrainGuy said...

I had been wondering about this movie. Traci and I saw an advertisement before the latest Resident Evil movie. Neither of us had ever heard of it before but were amazed at the amount of recognizable names. Glad to know it's not worth my time.