johnlink ranks RISING SUN (1993)

I grew up loving Michael Crichton. His sci-fi stuff is what he is most remembered for, though he also had his share of non-genre stories as well. The two I remember seeing as a fledgling film fanatic were DISCLOSURE and RISING SUN. I remember liking both, but not being blown away by either. But I like Sean Connery enough to give a mostly forgotten movie a second run.

I watched RISING SUN (1993) on 10.26.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first in fifteen years or so.

This is a film about a police officer named Smith (Snipes) who is force-paired with another shady Captain named John Connor (Sean Connery, not a grown up TERMINATOR target, sadly). Both have a background in Japanese relations, though Connor apparently went too far under. The film is set in Los Angeles, and begins with a murder in a Japanese-owned high-rise. For some reason, the police seem to have no jurisdiction, so they have to negotiate their way into the building.

And so begins a whole series of clumsy generalizations and stereotypes being lobbed around for the next two hours. This is a movie which purports to be nuanced, and which is instead grossly over-directed. The clichés keep coming, and the idea of cultural sensitivity feels horribly dated. The movie seems to treat Japanese culture as something dated and cute, and the condescending tone never lets up.

Connery isn’t bad, and Snipes is serviceable. But most of the acting in this is atrocious. Usually, ‘bad acting’ is an inability to infuse the audience with the necessary emotion. In RISING SUN, the peripheral actors are over-directed to an absurd degree. When Connery and Snipes talk to a security worker (not interrogate, just talk, mind you) the actor rubs his hands endlessly, sweats, stutters, and makes over-exaggerated eye movements. Every bit of it is overstated. A good director takes one of those moments, maybe. A poor director (Philip Kaufman, who has made some great movies) puts every single one into the film.

I am not a remake guy, but this is a film which could be done well with the right script and the right vision. Instead, we are subjected to the mess that this film is: Entertaining in spurts, but consistently frustrating. The last scene of this movie also contains one of the worst examples of treating the audience like idiots which I have ever witnessed. Without ruining anything, there are three or four continuous moments of “Wait, when that happened in the second scene… it was YOU who was standing there.” And, “When you said HIM, generically, you really meant HIM, specifically.” I mean, really, it is brutal. It needs to be seen to be believed. And it doesn’t help that it has no bearing on the story whatsoever, and only serves to make our hero look, simultaneously, dumb and disloyal.

Both RISING SUN and JURASSIC PARK were Crichton novels turned into films in 1993. Having watched both in the last JURASSIC PARK is timeless, still powerful, and revolutionary. RISING SUN already feels dated, frivolous, and limp.






~ by johnlink00 on October 27, 2012.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks RISING SUN (1993)”

  1. I find your review quite interesting; I myself have viewed this film recently on a couple of occasions (being an Asian culture fan generally) but I also remember watching in the early 1990’s when it came out. After this film Sean Connery had to hire two bodyguards because he was receiving so many threats from Yakuza and other Japanese ruffians claiming he was being anti-Japanese, Also at the time, Japanese real estate what on the bubble to say the least claiming for instance that the Emperor’s residence was worth more than the state of California. Moreover, many books were published and purchased by Americans in droves about eastern philosophy as applied to business operations (going so far as to take Miyamoto Muashi’s 5 Rings and contort it into a business how to book. Sure looking back on it now it is filled with thin stereotypes but that is all Americans (including Crichton) knew (or wanted) to know at the time. Many jobs in several areas of the U.S. economy were loosing ground to the Japanese until about 1991-1992 when their bubble burst, the 1990’s is know as the lost decade for Japan’s economy. So at the time the book was written all Crichton really new was this massive Japanese Juggernaut that everyone irrationally feared would envelope the US.

    I guess my point is when you look at it when it was made, that explains a lot of your complaints. So when I remember watching in its day, I saw what they were trying to do; that is, stir up the pot regarding Japanese-American economic issues and they did a good job of that since every Japanese group bitched about the film.

    I don’t disagree with your review but cut the film a little slack and remember when it was made and the materials that it had to work with.

    • Thanks for the great background information! While I remember that sort of passive-aggressive jingoism toward the Japanese back then, I guess I forgot how prevalent it was.

      I might argue that the film RISING SUN is sloppily handled in making its point. We could consider the difference between subtle uses of anti-communist sci-fi of the 50s, versus heavy-handed examples which only served to extend paranoia and misinformation. RISING SUN, it could be argued, would fall on the latter side of that scale.

      Crichton has said that he intended the book to be more about American ineptitude rather than Japanese economic imperialism. But it is hard to see that come through in the film. Instead, the film feels like it proliferated stereotypes and feels generally condescending.

      But knowing some of the historical relevance certainly helps explain HOW a movie gets to be so.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • You can sort of see Crichton was trying to show American ineptitude through some of the comments Sean Connery makes, but if that was his purpose he really needed to spend more time on the book.

  2. This movie has a really hot sex scene, and I wanna do that same thing with a girl.

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