362 – Rise: Blood Hunter

Despite its unwieldy, off-putting title, Rise: Blood Hunter (aka simply Rise) isn’t as terribly cheesy and disgusting as I imagined it would be. A reporter (Lucy Liu) wakes up in a morgue’s body drawer and discovers she’s been changed into a blood-seeking, human-chomping immortal, or something, and rather than gleefully embrace her new self she decides to track down the evil bastards who put her in that condition, making her a sort of avenging angel for all those who have been similarly wronged.

Sadie Blake (Liu) is a sexy, classy young lady who’s just written a front-page story about teen goth clubs. One of her coworkers, the nerdy computer stereotype, tracks down a phone number that one of the teens handed to Sadie – turns out it’s not a phone number but the first in a series of clues that leads to a website devoted to some weird bloodsucking cult. Sadie, of course, thinks the story’s over and goes on a quickie vacation to Mexico with her sister, but when she returns, you guessed it, her coworker’s dead. Sadie follows clues like a good little Nancy Drew and winds up getting kidnapped (several times) and killed (several times), all to figure out who or what’s behind everything.

The story jumps around a lot, flouting the conventions of time as we know them; things simply don’t happen in the exact order we’d expect them to, which clouds Sadie’s motives and intentions quite a bit. Is she good? Is she even human? After all, once she’s been attacked by the vampire people, she’s not exactly the picture of health, and she’s gotta eat to survive. Is her ultimate goal of revenge enough to offset the unpleasant facts?

It helps that there’s a typically hissable bad guy, Bishop (James D’Arcy). He’s eternal, of course, and he kills and mutilates and rapes for the sheer joy of it. There are no moral or ethical quandaries with this guy. Plus he has an effete, brandy-swilling British accent, making all the more unctuous and slimy. (Well, he’s slimy also because he’s often covered in someone’s blood.)

Now, granted, this isn’t a pleasant, sedate movie to watch. It’s full of gore and guts, although not so much as, say, a movie like Saw or Hostel. It’s still not for the weak of stomach. You might remember how, in Kill Bill, The Bride traveled all over to wipe out those who’d wronged her – but the film didn’t show us this in the order in which each avenging occurred, did it? So you’d see Uma Thurman wander over to Viveca Fox’s house not knowing if she’d already visited Lucy Liu. Well, you would know, of course, if you picked up on the subtle hints, and that’s exactly how it is here. At one point, Sadie runs into alcoholic, world-weary cop-with-a-conscience-and-a-cause Clyde Rawlins (a fantastic Michael Chiklis) and mutters something about having seen him before. And if you watch the movie closely, you see exactly where. It’s as if there are no coincidences in the movie, and I think that works in its favor.

Still, it IS just a revenge flick, albeit one with vampires and a kick-ass crossbow. Liu is very, very good – she’s not the screaming, hands-in-the-air type of heroine, but she’s also not the balls-out gut-stomping Lara Croft type, either. Remember, Lucy Liu is petite; she doesn’t automatically have this intimidating screen presence, so she uses what she has and makes the most of it. In her case, I’d have to say it’s her eyes, flashing terror or courage in…. well, in the blink of an eye.

So despite some predictability, the movie does work, thanks to Liu and the novelty of the disjointed sequencing. There are quite a few chills, and the plot doesn’t stray too far from its main revenge thread, thus simplifying matters.

***

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