Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Falcon Rising" (2014)

Starring: Michael Jai White, Neal McDonough and Jimmy Navarro
Written by Y.T. Parazi
Directed by Ernie Barbarash
Rated R — Violence, language, brief nudity
Running Time: 100 Minutes

The poster says "America's new
action hero" even though the majority
of the movie takes place in Brazil.
Former marine John "Falcon" Chapman (Michael Jai White) is in trouble. Suffering from PTSD after his time in the military, he has descended into a pit of alcoholism and obsessive behavior. When he learns that his sister Cindy (Laila Ali) has been beaten nearly to death in a favela in Rio, he travels to Brazil and meets up with his old friend Manny Ridley (Neal McDonough) who works at the US Consulate.

Despite warnings that the favelas are dangerous and that he should let the local authorities handle the case, Chapman throws himself into the investigation. Rio detective Thiago Santo (Jimmy Navarro) decides to placate Chapman, but tells uniformed officer Katarina Da'Silva (Millie Ruperto) to keep him out of trouble. Not content to be sidelined, Chapman barrels his way through all obstacles, finding that his sister's beating was no simple mugging, putting him in the sights of a powerful conspiracy with global reach.

Man, I don't know why I had higher hopes for this, but somehow I did. I thought maybe despite its low-budget nature, with the presence of Michael Jai White I might get some decent martial arts thrills out of it.

But... nope. Despite a slim 100-minute running time, "Falcon Rising" feels much longer. It seems like the movie thinks its plot is actually important, and, worse that its plot twists aren't obvious and cliched. There's nothing that happens in "Falcon Rising" that is surprising, nothing you can't see coming a mile away.

The obvious plot isn't elevated by simplistic characters, either. There's very little explanation for Chapman's PTSD other than brief flashbacks to him spotting some dead soldiers after what might have been an IED attack, but there's very little context for any of the images the movie throws at the audience. Michael Jai White isn't a particularly good actor, but he does have a good, menacing presence and he's clearly a capable martial artist. So I like watching him kick ass. But, sadly, there's precious little of that going on here.

"Falcon Rising" wastes most of its time on endless scenes of Chapman investigating his sister's attack, but it all feels extremely simplistic and repetitive. The conspiracy it unravels isn't particularly complex, either. It all just seems painfully obvious, and the film doesn't give us enough action to really justify any of it.

Worse, there are odd inconsistencies sprinkled throughout. For example, Cindy has a notebook that Chapman finds which when we first see it has nearly half its pages torn out. In the next few shots as the scene continues, the book has all of its pages, and then by the end, it seems to be at about two-thirds. In one scene, Chapman fires off two whole clips from a pistol but mostly just hits a truck full of guys trying to kill him. However, in the film's climactic fight sequences, he's suddenly a much more expert marksman with a 9 mm pistol.

The few fight scenes we do get are actually pretty decent. The finale is a solid sequence with Chapman taking on three people at once, one of which has a sword. At the end of the day, there's just not enough action in this movie.

With some more streamlined editing, "Falcon Rising" might have been a nice, brief diversion, but at even 100 minutes it still feels too long. It desperately needs more action. Perhaps the proposed sequel, apparently now in pre-production, can correct this issue.

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