a critiQal film review Rising Sun (1993)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: During a party at the offices of a large Japanese corporation, a woman, apparently a professional mistress, is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Lt. Webster Smith (Snipes), is called in to investigate. On his way, he is ordered to pick up John Connor (Connery), a former police Captain and an expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive, Web thinks the murder suspect is obvious, but Connor believes there's more than what they are being shown.

666 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 19s)

After watching an old Wesley Snipes’ favorite, Drop Zone (1994) a little while back, I figured it was time to watch something by Snipes that I hadn’t gotten around to seeing before. So, when Rising Sun, with Snipes and co-star Sean Connery popped up in my online NetFlix® queue, it seemed like a perfect fit.

But, was there a reason I had never gotten around to watching Rising Sun prior to this, nearly 16 years after it’s release, or would this one provide just the right mix of humor and action I was looking for?

Wesley Snipes, in most of his roles, usually plays the squeaky-clean good guy – but, when he does venture out of that role, into something a bit more shady (in Blade (1998) or Demolition Man (1993)), he tends to deliver a performance that’s so much more memorable. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in Rising Sun. While his character has a bit of a dodgy past, he plays the straight arrow cop for the most part, and delivers a very unmemorable performance.

Then again, it’s not entirely his fault. After all, it’s rather obvious that his character is the buffoon being lead around by Sean Connery, who is the main star of Rising Sun. While his character is a bit too steeped in Japanese culture to be taken seriously – playing out as more of a spoof of an American with Japanese background more than anything else – the viewer is unable to get behind his character too much. That sense of silliness about the character is just too strong, and the viewer feels like the joke will soon be on them if they allow themselves to get too interested in the character’s motives.

By centering the movie around Connery, the film throws a promising take on the buddy cop formula out the window while at the same time managing to reduce Snipes’ performance to one of inferior sidekick rather than equal partner. With Snipes relegated to being nothing but Connery’s driver, and Connery’s character coming across as a spoof, the viewer never manages to actually become interested in either of these characters – so their trials and tribulations throughout the film aren’t that interesting either.

Harvey Keitel is also wasted in his role, as the film puts him squarely in the “racist cop whose got to be dirty” stereotype and doesn’t let him – or the viewer – forget it for a moment.

The plot does start out decently, with a murder mystery setup that will help the viewer stick around, if only to find out “whodunit”, but falls apart along the way as it twists and turns itself into a ridiculous knot. While the viewer may be able to follow along, somewhere along the way the twists and turns will still leave them behind, as they continue to lose interest.

That interest is regained somewhat through the appearances of a few familiar faces, including Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs (1992)), Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat (1995)). Of these, Steve Buscemi is the largest disappointment, since the film at least gives Carrere and Tagawa’s characters a bit of development, while leaving Buscemi as just another sneaky reporter (he’s even called “the weasel”).

Sadly, while Rising Sun starts out with a clever “whodunit” and the unique pairing of Wesley Snipes and Sean Connery in what seems to be “buddy cop” roles quickly collapses in on itself as it tosses away Snipes’ performance, turns Connery’s character into a joke, and ends up twisting itself into a knot, leaving the viewer to yawn and concentrate on staying awake. Toss in an ending that wraps things up easily, while still leaving lots of unanswered questions about the characters themselves, and Rising Sun continues to disappoint.

If you’re looking for a “whodunit” with Wesley Snipes, you’d be better off leaving Connery and Rising Sun behind and going for something like Murder at 1600. That way, you can enjoy the film, rather than spend the time trying to stay awake.

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