House of the Rising Sun, 2011.
Directed by Brian A Miller.
Starring Dave ‘Batista’ Bautista, Amy Smart, Dominic Purcell, Craig Fairbrass and Danny Trejo.
Ray, now a bouncer but once a dirty cop, finds himself ensnared in the politics of a local crime syndicate. He must find who was behind the robbery of one of their night clubs to prove his own innocence.
“Why do you say things like that? Does it feel good to act like an asshole?” asks Jenny Porter (Amy Smart), hurt by Ray’s (Dave Bautista) general asshole demeanour. “Who says I’m acting?” he mumbles in reply.
It’s The House of the Rising Sun’s best piece of dialogue, and for a moment you think the film might not be that bad. The opening sequence is restrained, the camera following Ray as he walks through the not-all-that-legal club for which he is a bouncer. He visits each of the building’s three rooms – a bar, a strip floor and a casino. Occasionally someone will stop him to whisper in his ear. At one point, one of the dancers pulls him close by his tie for a kiss on the cheek. You observe the environment, soaking in the calm, collected way Ray carries himself.
But then people start talking and acting, and the film reveals its true pedigree. It’s a below-average action/crime/thriller, the sort you find in a discount bucket, or adorning the DVD rack of an Off License checkout.
The club is held up and robbed by a gang of masked men, the owner’s affable son being shot dead as they do. Ray was in charge of security that night, so he becomes the “family’s” chief suspect. That he’s an ex-dirty cop sacked by the force helps his cause none. But the bosses want those responsible, and task Ray with their capture to prove his loyalty. An odd logic.
The problem is, after those first 10 minutes of Ray walking around the club, the dialogue becomes submerged in a bog of exposition, each scene feels like wading through a thick swamp of generic character backstory. “I can get you anything you want because my dad owns the club”; “I work here because I served a prison sentence after being a dirty-cop”; “I’m angry with you, because we used to go out and there’s unresolved sexual tension between us” – explanations are crowbarred into conversation, stalling any real character growth or genuine insight. Far more is revealed of Ray’s character by the simple, frequent action of him smoking a cigarette.
Dave Bautista, the ex-WWE professional wrestler, is the money draw here, and he has a pretty good go at things. He’s a badass, both in and outside the ring. The way he carries himself, mumbles through lines, dangles a smoke from the corner of his snarl – Bautista (or ‘Batista’, as was his wrestling name) possesses an intensity within him. He’s grizzled and tattooed and seems to be loosing hair from the back of his head, all aspects that contribute greatly to the nothing-left-to-lose ditch in which Ray finds himself, as the ‘family’ and his old friends on the force conspire against him.
But it is his character that impairs Batista’s screen presence. Ray is largely passive, always waiting for others to start the fights. He only ever seems to talk back to the one person who’s nice to him – Jenny, the love interest – but is begrudgingly polite to his masters. Batista is an ass kicker, and in The House of the Rising Sun many an ass go wanting.
And then there’s Batista’s run, an odd half jog/half waddle. He moves his shoulders instead of his arms, tucking his head into his chest. Most scenes seem to end on a shot of Batista running, and you can’t help but focus on its ridiculousness once you’ve noticed. It saps the dramatic conclusion from a few choice moments, an editing fault that must lay with the director. Where most would end an angry telephone scene with one party (preferably the bad ass) slamming down the receiver, Brian A Miller holds on the shot to pan left, just in time to catch Batista waddle-jogging off to his car. There might be a drinking game in there somewhere.
As Keith Chegwin once described, it’s a Beer and Chicken Tikka Masala film.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film * / Movie **