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House of the Rising Sun

tn_houseoftherisingsunI’m not familiar with Dave Bautista’s work as a WWE Superstar™, but I thought he was cool in a supporting role in my old internet pal “Demon” Dave DeFalco’s action movie WRONG SIDE OF TOWN. So when I saw he had a starring role in this movie (which credits DeFalco as an executive producer) I was sure to check it out. And I was surprised, especially watching it immediately after TACTICAL FORCE, at its level of quality. There are some issues, for sure, but it’s a serious crime drama adapted from a novel, not some shitty excuse to bring him from wrestling scene to shootout to wrestling scene. It’s a pretty decent story, actually.

Check out the tag line. Good stuff.
Check out that tag line. Good stuff.

Bautista plays Ray Shane, head of security at an illegal casino and brothel in Grand Rapids. He used to be a cop, but a bunch of them were on the take and he took the fall for it, did 5 years. One night one of his guys is not at his post, he watches the door for the guy and some armed gunmen get the drop on him. Not only does he lose a bunch of the club’s money, but the boss’s son gets shot and killed. So the boss decides that it’s Ray’s responsibility to use the skills he learned as a detective to get the money back and catch the killer. It’s kind of a noir mystery type deal: somebody’s trying to set him up, he uses his old connections to find leads, he follows the trail of clues, etc.

It’s kind of a Schwarzenegger role in a way. Other than his troubled situation he’s a pretty regular guy who just happens to be a giant muscleman. He’s not a super criminal or elite warrior. He gets into some scuffles but doesn’t bust out the wrestling moves much. When he starts questioning people they keep saying he looks like a cop, and I always thought “I never seen a cop like that.” Looks more like a barbarian to me. (I guess that’s why he’s gonna be in the next SCORPION KING movie. Too bad it’s not as the Scorpion King.)

There’s a good scene where he kind of forces his way into a guy’s house to ask him questions and it takes a little bit for the guy to understand that he’s not a cop and then start fighting him.

Dominic Purcell (Dracula from BLADE III) is one of the guys he works for, Amy Smart (Felicity) is his ex-girlfriend, Danny Trejo is another crime boss. It’s not the best type of role for Trejo because he’s just a slick kingpin guy, it could be played by plenty of actors who lack Trejo’s particular look and presence. And it’s a small part too, but it’s a pivotal character at least.

There’s nothing very original about any of this, but it has some novelistic detail to it, some nice man-to-man conversations, it’s not your typical DTV mob stuff. I really like that Ray Shane is not a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type who always wins. No, he knows he’s in deep shit, and he goes after these big shots to plead his case, explain what really happened, try to convince them. It’s not at all a typical role for an ex-wrestler. If I had the means this is how I’d reward him:

bautista-hotrslunchbox

Of course the cover shows him shirtless with a gun, as if he just goes around in public wearing his wrestling gear. Actually he wears winter clothes for most of the movie so it seems kind of out of place the one time you see his shirt off and all his ink. I’m not sure the character would really have that style of tattoos.

Amy Smart’s role is a little thin. For a while she’s just the slightly crazed ex-girlfriend ho. And she’s not as good as she usually is. It kinda seems like she didn’t like the character and didn’t put too much effort into it. But what happens with her character surprised me. I thought I knew what she was up to but I was wrong.

My biggest problem with the movie is the music. There’s a whole bunch of rock songs, many of them with corny lyrics about the government being after you and shit that doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the movie. This is really the only thing about the movie that seems maybe designed for the wrestling fan demographic that Bautista would appeal to. I know it’s a personal taste thing but I really feel like a more retro type soundtrack works better with these crime movies. But I guess just because you’re filming in Michigan doesn’t mean you can afford Motown songs on your soundtrack.

But it does have snow in it. It’s kind of hard to have snow in a low budget movie. Good job on the snow, fellas. It doesn’t look like they tried to, it just happened to snow while they were filming and they got the continuity to work.

It really is based on a book by a guy named Chuck Hustmyre, who has done a bunch of well reviewed books. But the Amazon description says the book takes place in New Orleans. I guess the tax breaks in Michigan were better than the ones in New Orleans. Also from the description I learned that the name of the club where everything went down is The House of the Rising Sun, so that explains the title. I was wondering ’cause I didn’t notice anything Japanese in the movie.

This isn’t really good enough to put on a list of new DTV classics, but I think it’s an interesting and surprisingly solid entry in the history of movies starring former wrestlers, and I think it speaks well for Bautista’s potential as an actor and/or movie star. I’m sure there was easier and more obvious material he could’ve gotten involved with, he must have interesting tastes if this is what he chose. Good job Demon Dave if you helped steer him toward this one.

Everybody loves a good "guy holding a giant thing" movie poster
Everybody loves a good “guy holding a giant thing” movie poster

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 at 2:25 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “House of the Rising Sun”

  1. Looking forward to the sequel, Blowin’ In The Wind.
    Seriously though, that does sound like an interesting set-up for a movie, or book even.

  2. “Hm, Direct to Video Classics…

    …how about a definite List on the Matter Vern?”

  3. So how big was he looking Vern? Because as this thread shows he’s lost a noticeable amount of mass since leaving wrestling:
    http://oowrestling.com/OOForums/viewthread.php?tid=25141
    WARNING: features a picture of Bautista that may make you lose all respect you have for him.

  4. i’ll give it a try.

    and seriously if the cops around here looked like this guy i think maybe the crime rate would be just a bit lower.

  5. Surfinerd – so far I got “Blood and Bone”, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”, and “Undisputed 3” (although I must admit I haven’t seen the last one yet, I watched “Undisputed” and thought the movie pretty much belonged to Ving Rhames, so the news that he wasn’t in the sequels put me off a little. And yeah, even MJW being in them didn’t pique my curiosity enough for me to actively seek them out.)

    I would second the request for a definitive list of DTV classics, Vern. I’m sure there’s some good s–t out there. Like “Undisputed 3”, I’ve neglected a lot of stuff reviewed on this site just because it simply hasn’t come my way.

  6. wabalicious monkeynuts

    August 30th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Undisputed 2 and 3 were great! I liked this one too, it’s quite a low-key movie, but enjoyable nonetheless. No fancy fights, just a standard thriller, but it passes the time nicely. I have a couple of recommendations, both directed by a guy called William Kaufman, which i watched over the weekend. First, a great New Orleans-set thriller called Sinners & Saints, with Johnny Strong from Black Hawk Down (he played Shugart). A cop/ex-spec ops soldier gets involved in bringing down a group of mercs who are murdering various folk in N.O., decent cast, great shootouts. The director used to be in Marine recon, so it all looks pretty authentic. Jurgen Prochnow has a small cameo, Tom Berenger is the chief, it’s surprisingly great for DTV. Vern, i think you’ll like this one. The other was The Hit List, with Cuba Gooding Jr as an assassin who meets a guy who’s been badly fucked over (Cole Hauser) and decides to help him out…by killing the 5 people who’ve annoyed him most. Hauser laughs it off until the bodies start piling up. Again, realistic shootouts and some good acting, reminiscent of The Hitcher in some ways, which is never a bad thing. Anyway, both really good, solid DTV shows, check them out if you get a chance.

  7. Not to start an argument or anything, Monkeynuts, but I kind of thought The Hit List was a boring piece of shit. Boring action, a protagonist who just lets the movie lead him around without doing much of anything about it, and a lot of scenes where mediocre actors sit around and throw very bad dialogue at each other for long stretches of time. Not a big fan.

    I did think that Will Kaufman’s indie movie, The Prodigy, was really solid, though. Especially the first half hour. It slows down after that and never really gets that pace back, but it does such a great job of setting the bad guy up as this mysterious unstoppable badass that you spend all the slow moments in anticipation, looking forward to seeing that guy in action again.

  8. Where did you get a copy of Sinners and Saints? It doesn’t appear to be that easy to find. I’ve been dying to see it for months now.

  9. Somebody else recommended Hit List too. I’ll definitely check those out when I can.

    update: Did Sinners and Saints come out? I just realized I’ve looked that one up before, ’cause Bas Rutten is in it. But I find no evidence of its existence on DVD. There was an official websight for the movie apparently but there’s nothing on there anymore.

  10. wabalicious monkeynuts

    August 31st, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Hi Eddie, not to worry, to each his own, i suppose. For me, it worked partly because the main character couldn’t really do anything about his situation, he was pretty much powerless, and it seemed he was being challenged to try to stop the assassin, which is why it reminded me of The Hitcher a bit. I hadn’t heard of Kaufman’s films until the other day, The Prodigy doesn’t seem to be available in the UK, but i did see the trailer. It looks good, i do want to check it out. I rented The Hit List, but Sinners and Saints came to me by a more..ahem..unofficial channel, i’m afraid. I’ll buy it as soon as it’s available though, i really liked it. It’s out in Australia, and Twictfilm.net say “Throttle Films mentioned that the film will be releasing in the States in January”

  11. wabalicious monkeynuts

    August 31st, 2011 at 10:18 am

    ….or Twitchfilm.net say that, even.

  12. THE PRODIGY started out pretty cool but kind of petered out. I’m not 100% sure I remember what happened at the end. Not a good sign.

  13. Can I recommend the 1997 DTV movie “Retroactive” as a classic? It’s a small scale sci-fi/action piece with James Belushi, Fred Whaley, F Murray Abraham and Kylie Travis, and it is (to quote Empire magazine) “witty, suspenseful and chock-full of excellent action”. Seriously, check it out if you can, how the director never got a Hollywood job after it is dumbfounding.

  14. RETROACTIVE is seriously good. Unfortunately it’s Louis Morneau’s only good film. Seriously, you wanna know why he never got a hollywood job? Watch BATS or THE HITCHER 2, then you know.

  15. wabalicious monkeynuts

    August 31st, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I always heard good stuff about Retroactive, must get round to seeing it. The Hitcher 2 was bad, but enjoyably so. Well, maybe not enjoyably, but it was better than the remake of The Hitcher, which made me want to kill whoever made it.

  16. “They took his badge. He kept the gun”. That’s gotta be one of the worst tag-lines ever. I’ve seen those scenes where they take your badge and they ALWAYS take an Officer’s gun too. Which is symbolic and stuff.

  17. Retroactive sounds great. I’ll check it out. Speaking of underrated 90’s sci-fi films, is anyone here fond of that Rutger Hauer film ‘Wedlock’. It popped into my head yesterday for some odd reason.

  18. “PHIL! That’s a nice Belt Buckle!”

    Belushi is awesome in this.

  19. Henry, I watched and reviewed Wedlock AKA: Deadlock not too long ago. Solid, agreeable Rutger flick. Plus Remar’s in it…

  20. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 1st, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Yeah, Wedlock was great. It seemed to mark the start of Rutger’s 1990’s weight gain.

  21. Jack Burton – Where’s your Wedlock review? I searched your site and come up blank.

    Monkeynuts – Well Rutger turned 50 in 1994, so I guess that’s a pretty good excuse for putting on a few pounds. Though he looked less fat in Batman Begins I think.

    Man, I remember being let down big-time by that cyberpunk’ish film he did where he was hunting some creature that killed people and ripped out their hearts or some shit? Split Second it was called. Though that’s one in a long list of pretty big letdowns from the man. Though I guess I was half expecting a return to Blade Runner greatness, which wasn’t going to happen on these low budget DTV productions.

  22. Henry – the badge taking and gun taking don’t always necessarily go together, like where the gun is Glenn Ford’s own in THE BIG HEAT.

  23. “Man, I remember being let down big-time by that cyberpunk’ish film he did where he was hunting some creature that killed people and ripped out their hearts or some shit? Split Second it was called. Though that’s one in a long list of pretty big letdowns from the man. Though I guess I was half expecting a return to Blade Runner greatness, which wasn’t going to happen on these low budget DTV productions.”
    Was that the one where his new partner appears to get killed in one scene, only to turn up in a later one out of the blue and say “what, you’ve never heard of bullet proof vests?”?

  24. wabalicious monkeynuts

    September 2nd, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Haha, i hated Split Second, but everyone else i know really liked it. I haven’t even got turning 50 to blame for being a little large in the old waist department, myself, so Rutger has one up on me there.

  25. AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    September 12th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Batista ain’t gonna go too far I dun think. He’s a soft talker – almost a mumbler. Which is fine, but not as a star if he can’t raise the bar when he needs to.

    I enjoyed this, though did find it strange that we were following Batista’s character since he was in many ways, not interesting enough to deserve being the focus. I mean he was stupid (illustrated many times, could write an essay on how retarded he is), and he was a failed corrupt cop – I mean seriously, he couldn’t even cut it as a dirty cop lol, and he was immoral, and under all that shitty exterior, he was actually not just an asshole, but seriously quite the cunt – particularly in the efforts he went to to hurt his ex but still used her. And he even sucked at his shitty arse security job. Absolutely no moral fibre, no strength of character, a dull and ugly blot on a fairly blotty landscape of humankind. The only redeeming feature the character had was he was inexplicably built like arnie.

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