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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Action > Politics > Rising Sun (Blu-ray)

Rising Sun (Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C-     Film: B



Back in the early 1990s, the writer whose books seemed like instant box office blockbuster material at the moment was Michael Crichton.  Though many of the adaptations were bad because producers thought the Crichton name was enough to sell tickets, a few stood out.  Crichton had been writing and even directing hits for TV and theaters since the 1970s, including the TV movie Pursuit (which influenced the hit series 24) and feature films like The Carey Treatment, Coma and Westworld, but actually became hotter 20 years later.  Not all of the later work was fluff or broadly commercial items like Jurassic Park either.


One of the bolder pieces was a book called Rising Sun, a murder thriller that told the story of both the cover-up and the rise of Japan as an economic power in ways that were not good and hardly talked about.  Before political correctness was full-blown or a fox News network existed, the book was the target of a campaign to silence it for all kinds of reasons.  As a result, when the book’s film rights came up for bid, none of the studios would touch it despite how hot Crichton had become because it was deemed a hot potato by the other studios, especially those owned by the Japanese.


Enter Fox the powerful movie studio, who locked up the rights, put director Philip Kaufman at the helm and cast no less than the great Sean Connery as the lead with solid actor and action newcomer Wesley Snipes.  Connery plays Captain John Connor, paired with Snipes’ Lt. Webster Smith when a call girl is murdered inside the U.S. headquarters of a huge Japanese corporation.  The pairing is awkward at first and Connor is on the case knowing more about Japanese culture than just about anyone else.  There is also Harvey Keitel as Lt. Tom Graham, who throws PC out the window at every turn and is determined not to let the “visitors” get away with murder.


Making things even more complicated is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Eddie Sakamura, the son of big Japanese money, Kevin Anderson as the arrogant and complicit Bob Richmond, Mako as corporate head Yoshida-san, Ray Wise as Senator John Morton, Tia Carrere as the technologically savvy Jingo Asakuma and even Steve Buscemi as Willie “The Weasel” Wilhelm.  Who killed the girl?  Will there be a frame-up?  Do the Japanese businessmen now have so much power in the U.S. (and pre-9/11 at that) that they can fool anyone and get away with murder?  Are they even connected?


The film does throw out some of the more provocative aspects of the book, which might have seemed like censorship at the time, but if included then would have made the film more dated now.  Instead, the tale of lust, food, power and murder holds up very well, has some great moments for all actors involved and contains a cynicism that the world has caught up with.  Connery’s work here is better than he received credit for at the time, while Snipes delivers one of his most interesting performances since he can combine his underrated acting talents with martial arts abilities.


All the cast is good at playing the “red herring” card by all possibly being guilty directly or indirectly of the murder.  That is because they were not certain on how to end the film not unlike Sliver (reviewed elsewhere on this site) from test marketing and that so many murder thrillers (post-Fatal Attraction/Basic Instinct) were being made that they wanted to have alternate endings to choose form so their films would not sink at the box office.  Ultimately, this was too edgy at the time and did good but not blockbuster business, though still not as edgy as its forerunner (reviewed elsewhere on this site): Michael Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon.  Since then, it has been ripe for rediscovery and we can only hope the decent Blu-ray edition will show how good this really was.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 18 MBPS digital High Definition image seems to be from an older early HD master with some redness and lack of detail here and there.  During the 12” LaserDisc years, this title was considered a great picture demo and it looks like similar print material was used.  One reason is that it was shot by Michael Chapman, whose credits include several classics with Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz, Raging Bull), The Last Detail, The Front, Hardcore, Scrooged and The Fugitive.  He previously worked with Kaufman before on his underrated 1978 remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and this film also has effective camera work that makes the thriller aspects stronger.


The HD also allows you to see amusing bloopers, like editing that show how loosely they were playing with the mystery storyline or watch as the actress playing the murder victim is supposed to be dead when she blinks her eyes like she is bored with the shoot!


The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio lossless 192/24 mix could not be fully decoded at posting time because the chips have not hit the market yet, but this film always had a good sound mix and it is made more interesting by the way ambiance and music (including the Toru Takemitsu score) are designed to create a creepy atmosphere that adds to the tension, suspense and unique feel of the film.  It is still impressive as Kaufman’s best sound mixes (The Right Stuff, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) have been


Extras include an HD trailer for this and a few other Fox films, but nothing else on this 25GB disc.


By the way, as an interesting gag, you might want to review the scene where Snipes & Connery are examining video records of the crime scene with Carrere, searching for alterations in the copy they have since the original was swapped with the copy they are left with.  It is on a 5” video format, which she shows them, can be altered with simple digital manipulation by an electronic pen.  She explains that it is technology so advanced that no one else has it and all when 12” LaserDiscs were the most known and available optical video format with higher picture quality than CD-ROMs.


Well, as you all know, DVDs arrived about five years later and that all changed, but the format they are looking at is not DVD.  Instead, it is the format that lost to DVD called Super Video CD (SVCD) because it was not as advanced as DVD.  Now DVD has two successors battling it out as its HD replacement.  It makes for amusing irony watching this relatively new film, one of many twists that make Rising Sun as interesting as ever and a great early choice for a back catalog Blu-ray release from Fox.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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