Monday, 20 June 2016

House of the Rising Sun (2011)

Ray Shane was a dirty cop.  After five years in jail for his corrupt activities, he is trying to make an "honest" go of it by working security at a strip club that is also a front for a mob-run casino and brothel.  Hence the quotes around "honest".  The point is, he's actively looking to keep his head down and live a quiet life.  Unfortunately for him, the club's about to be hit by an armed robbery that leaves the owner's son dead and both the mob and the police convinced that Ray was behind it.  Ray's only hope is to rely on the few friends and contacts he has left while he tries to piece together the true story behind the raid.

I don't know about you, but when a film actively bills itself as starring a professional wrestler - in this case Dave Bautista, who is probably best known for being Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy - I tend to expect something of the ilk of Arnold Schwarzenegger's early 80s work: more action than acting, and a role that requires little more than throwing around stuntmen and one liners.  So the rather sombre and restrained tone of this film came as a surprise.  Ray Shane does get into several fights, but I don't think there is ever a time in the film where he throws the first punch.  And unless I missed it, he goes entirely quip free.

In short, this is not a movie in which a two-fisted man of action goes on a spree of personal destruction and then walks away into the night, a woman tucked in his arm and an explosion boiling into the sky behind him.  Things simply aren't that neat and tidy in Ray's world.

If what you're looking for is escapist action entertainment, you're not going to get it here.  House of the Rising Sun feels like it owes more to the film noir aesthetic (up to and including a chain-smoking lead) than to the action blockbuster.  I personally quite enjoyed the surprisingly dour and downbeat tone as an interesting change of pace, but it definitely won't be to all tastes.

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