(special request by Monica Flink. Thanks for your support!)
Vampires killing vampires really isn’t anything new. It’s ground that’s been trod pretty heavily. But while Blade focuses on gadgetry and the badassness of Wesley Snipes, and Underworld deals with the world of normal people as little as possible, Rise: Blood Hunter tells a tight, character-focused tale about a vampire killing other vampires and, all in all, does it pretty well. The film stars Lucy Liu, Michael Chiklis, James, D’Arcy, Carla Gugino, Mako and Marilyn Manson.
Lucy Liu plays Sadie Blake, a reporter covering a trend in the goth music & “sludge rock” scenes of people throwing over-the-top parties involving blood-drinking. One of her sources, Sadie Rawlins, ends up dead after one of these parties and her father, a cop (Michael Chiklis), becomes driven to uncover the truth behind the murder. Meanwhile, Sadie investigates and catches the attention of the vampires who are using the parties as a smokescreen for their feeding. They interrogate her, then rape and murder her. However, she wakes up in the morgue to discover that not only isn’t she dead, she can’t die by normal means – she throws herself into traffic to find that one out. She’s taken in by a benevolent, renegade vampire who trains her to fight in order to seek vengeance for herself. In the course of her roaring rampage, she encounters Rawlins, and after some tense arguments, they agree to help each other in finishing off the blood-suckers.
While the movie focuses more on characters than cool powers or gizmos, it should be mentioned that the characters are somewhat one-note. With the exception of Lucy Liu, the characters don’t grow or develop much over the course of the film. The cop’s driven, tough as nails and busted up over his daughter. The lead vampire’s an arrogant sex-driven jerk. The rest of the cast doesn’t get a lot of screen-time in which to develop. Carla Gugino’s Eve had potential to be interesting but she is killed off rather arbitrarily. On the one hand, I wanted to see more of her character (and not just because of her lesbian scenes with Lucy Liu), but on the other I believe this was a decision made to show the myopic drive of Lucy’s character and to keep the story moving without weighing it down with a lot of extra characters.
The story does amble along at an admirable pace. Despite it’s brisk clip, however, it doesn’t really go anywhere. The revenge plot isn’t overly complicated, be it dressed in the black skull-bearing gunplay of The Punisher or the sword and sandals epicness of Gladiator. Rise pretty much just gives the plot fangs and sends it on its way. While it’s nice to see a story that isn’t bogged down with glitzy CGI or over-complicated gizmos, the simplicity of the plot doesn’t really make it, or the characters who are a part of it, anything terribly interesting.
There’s one big hole in the plot that I’d be remiss in ignoring. When Sadie’s murdered, she’s left alone in the morgue to fend for herself. We learn later that her becoming a vampire was Eve’s doing. Now, most vampire stories & societies with which I’m familiar have the vampire responsible for the creation present with their offspring to guide them through the transition from breathing & mortal to dead but immortal, which is pretty jarring to say the least. This would especially apply if Eve was fed up with the preening self-centered prick who’d put Sadie in this position in the first place, and wanted to mentor Sadie into becoming the hunter. Instead, Sadie is left to wander around on her own and eventually just kills everybody she meets. Her mentor’s a relatively insignificant character in the grand scheme of things and is given all the development of a Polaroid shaken like a can of spray paint. While having Sadie spend time in the morgue so her family knows she’s dead is an effective tool in her transition, Eve would have made a much more interesting voice of guidance, especially in light of her conversation with Sadie after Sadie becomes a vampire. But, alas, I don’t write screenplays.
Despite these problems, Rise: Blood Hunter is still a solid story, if somewhat straightforward and simplistic. Lucy Liu does a good job of carrying the story, conveying what pathos she can in a few scant scenes that aren’t “Sadie shows up, kills a vampire & leaves,” and she and Chiklis have pretty good chemistry in the handful of scenes they share – although I for one was just waiting for Chiklis to have an excuse to tell us when it was clobberin’ time. The atmosphere is good, the action is grounded and the overall experience, while not setting the world on fire, does its job without overstaying its welcome. If you’re a fan of vampires, revenge plots or Lucy Liu kicking ass, you could do worse than Rise: Blood Hunter.
Did I mention the Carla Gugino/Lucy Liu lesbian scene? I think I did.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.