Thursday, September 18, 2014

Falcon Rising (2014)

Director: Ernie Barbarash
Notable Cast: Michael Jai White, Neal McDonough, Laila Ali, Lateef Crowder, Millie Ruperto, Jimmy Navarro, Masashi Odate

“God has nothing to do with this. You made your own choices.”

Michael Jai White has been dealing with TV and other bit acting parts for far too long. They’ve tried to give him franchises (Black Dynamite, Spawn) but continually they get shoved onto the back burner by studios. Luckily, someone seems to have their head on straight by attempting to give him one more franchise, but this time it’s a low budget old school actioner that wouldn’t require gimmicks or big bank rolls to get going. This film is Falcon Rising. While it’s not going to be winning any awards for its relatively basic plot line and old school 80s concepts, Falcon Rising is quite the entertaining flick hinged on some solid action set pieces that will have action fans clamoring for more.

John Chapman (Michael Jai White) can’t seem to cope with heading back to civilian life after his experiences in war. He struggles with purpose in his life and even though his sister (Laila Ali) tries to help, she’s so busy helping in the favelas of Brazil to always be there. When she is brutally attacked and left in a coma though, John takes it onto his shoulders to head down there and find out just who and why she was attacked. With the help of an old friend in the government (McDonough) he might just uncover a larger conspiracy at play.

"I'm here for some pain medication."
There can be a beauty to low budget straight to home video action films like Falcon Rising. Sure the budget obviously hurts the film in a lot of ways, particularly a film that tries to be as ambitious as this one, but the creativity in play with the execution and old school approach to its action lends itself to playing to its audience with a fair amount of confidence. At the foundation, sure the script is a bit cliché with Chapman looking to uncover what happened and having to essentially kick his ass to the top and a bit too much thought into the ‘conspiracy’ will unveil quite a few plot holes, but the approach is heartfelt and ultimately charismatic if that counts for anything.

Perhaps the biggest issue that Falcon Rising faces is just how serious it takes itself. It touches on a lot of bigger issues with its in-the-basics plot including police corruption, poverty, drug influence, and PTSD. At times the film wants to be a little bit First Blood and it doesn’t quite have the cast or script to pull it off. Chapman is a pretty strong character to build a franchise on (as indicated by its open ending and even the title Falcon Rising) and while it lacks some of the fun that Michael Jai White usually brings to these kind of films – the latter half gets much better and even has him dropping a few one liners – this debut for the character is a great kick off for all intensive purposes.

Ass kicking brought you by the letter "O" - as in, "Oh, shit."
As for the action, Falcon Rising delivers that in spades on all fronts. Director Ernie Barbarash is going to be one of those directors to be ranked up there with Florentine as one of the greats of underground action cinema (both Assassination Games and 6 Bullets rock hard) and the combination of hand to hand combat and gun work is pretty top notch for a low budget actioner. I do wish that Michael Jai White would have gone one on one a bit longer with Lateef Crowder (who played in both Undisputed 3 and Tekken as a highlight for throw-away roles), but the finale is still a blast.

Falcon Rising is not a perfect film and its writing can be a bit of a burden on all of the great aspects of the film, but the combination of Michael Jai White’s screen charisma, the action direction of Barbarash, and a focus on building a franchise make it one of the gems in action for the year. It’s not a film for everyone, but action fans will delight in all of its old school fist and gun glory. Here’s to hoping for a long lasting series!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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