Dave “The Animal” Bautista has had a fairly interesting life. Most people know him for his wrestling accolades even though his career only lasted about ten years. It is hard to believe that at one time, he was passed on by WCW and said he would never make it in the wrestling business. He would go on to be the six-time World Champion and a four-time Tag Team champion as a part of WWE. However, he departed with the company in 2010 to pursue other avenues including an acting career which made its way to my review door. Let’s explore: House of the Rising Sun.
Ray (played by Dave Bautista) takes a long drag on his cigarette. Sometimes he is not sure how his life got to be like this. He used to be a Vice cop who ended up getting jailed for being on the take. Now, trying to live a normal decent life he takes on a job as head of security for a strip joint called “House of the Rising Sun”. Unfortunately, Ray looks the other way a lot here too since this joint also runs prostitution and illegal gambling.
Ray finishes his cigarette and is called inside because one of the boys, Walter did not show up for work. He makes small talk with a waitress there named Jenny (played by Amy Smart) and then goes outside to talk to Pete (played by John G. Carbone), the son of Vinnie Marcella (played by Lyle Kanouse). The Marcellas, Carlos (played by Danny Trejo) and Vinnie control the joint and have most of the police force in their pocket.
Ray talks with Pete for a bit and then Pete goes back inside. Ray sees a man barfing in a trash can on the sidewalk near the club and tells him to move it along. As soon as Ray gets close enough, he is met with a gun shoved in his face. With the gun firmly pointed into his back, he walks into the strip joint and gets one of the ladies to unlock the cage. There inside the cage is what the crooks want, three hundred thousand dollars. Ray is eventually able to break free and a gunfight breaks out.
Mass chaos ensues but there are causalities to come. One of those includes young Pete who is gunned down behind the bar. After the crooks make their escape, head of operations Tony (played by Dominic Purcell) berates Ray for allowing the crooks into the joint and attracting attention. Ray denies any involvement and tries to plead his case. The police however do show up and poke around. Detective Carl Landry (played by Tim Fields) tries to get to Ray (he was the IA cop who put Ray away) but nothing further happens.
Ray eventually ends up going home and trying to sleep the incident off. Jenny calls Ray but he cusses her out rather harshly since he is still bitter from the time when Jenny and he were together. The next day, Ray is called into a meeting with Vinnie and Tony. He is forced into finding out what happened to Walter and who stole the three hundred thousand. Vinnie assigns a cleaner to him named Charlie Blackstone (played by Craig Fairbrass) to keep an eye on him. Can Ray find the perpetrators and keep the Marcellas as well as the cops off his back?
I enjoyed the Animal’s run in WWE. He was an accomplished wrestler and the last 2 or 3 years he really developed his character and drove it home. Here though, Bautista acts more like a bouncer and less like an investigative former cop. Heck, he borderlines on a mafia thug running from house to apartment to hotel room trying to strong-arm information from a bunch of punks. Dave has a natural likeable personality from what I have seen in interviews and promos but it rarely comes out here.
Instead he mumbles and shuffles his way through the picture and made to almost look like a fool in the proceedings. Ever been to a movie and feel like there was almost no point to the story? That is exactly what is going on here. The ending does no favors either and leaves us with a tale that has no redemption. The story is a simple one and we should have a fairly cookie cutter ending with a few twists thrown in for posterity. Instead, we get crap, crap and then oh some more crap for 90 minutes of pure nonsense.
Amy Smart and Dominic Purcell do a decent job but are quite frankly wasted in this film. Also, Brian Vander Ark’s performance as Jimmy LaGrange (cop who works with Ray) is also pretty good. Danny Trejo’s “supporting role” is downright hilarious. He gets a quick restaurant scene and a sex scene with a hot chick. That’s it. Yeap, show up, flash those crazy tattoos, and mack on a fine naked woman. All in a day’s work for Machete.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. Video is pretty good here. Colors are rich in quality (especially when it is a couple of bare breasts, *slap*, sorry) and the presentation is very sharp. As expected, a lot of this movie is in the dark or the shadows and I never felt like I could not tell what was going on. This movie looks like it was filmed in Grand Rapids, Michigan and there was good detail in the outside shots which led to that realization.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English DTS-HD track. Sound did not do so well. The main problem could be here is that Bautista tends to mumble a lot. Amy, Dominic speak up and enunciate, the Animal not so much. So dialog is hard, not to mention the sound mastering does nothing to help it along. Surrounds are there but for what should be a pulse pounding action film, this falls rather flat. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers : Blood Out, Locked Down, Caught in the Crossfire, Break.Com, and Epix HD.
- Commentary with Director Brian A. Miller and Actor Dave Bautista : The director and actor take time for a commentary. I have to admit, this is a pretty good listen. The director does a good job of explaining the technical details and Bautista keeps it from getting too boring by being intelligent and funny. Yeah, you heard me right, intelligent. Despite the fact that Bautista mumbles a lot in the film, he talks pretty regularly here and has a lot to say. They still do not explain the ending very well though, instead they spend these moments talking about camera shots.
- The Making of House of the Rising Sun 9:21. Brian Miller is back to talk us through the making of featurette. A heavy emphasis on Dave is expected. However, I have a bone to pick with the director and Dave. They make the mention several times that he showed a lot of heart and depth instead of just a “bonehead” wrestler. I know his wrestling career intimately; many of his promos had a ton of heart and depth.
- Interviews with Cast and Crew : Hard to time this one since they are separated, but we have the director, Dave, Amy Smart, and Danny Trejo (nice to see Danny show up for a couple of minutes). Needless to say, some of this is repeated from the making-of featurette.
- House of the Rising Sun Trailer 1:55: The trailer. Heh, this was adapted from a book? It was actually by Chuck Hustmyre and can be found on Amazon for $11 bucks on Paperback or $3 on Kindle. The book gets high marks, interesting. Anybody read the book? I’d be curious to know how different it is.
The thing is I think Dave Bautista could make a fine action star along the lines of Steve Austin or even dare I say it, ”The Rock” Dwayne Johnson. He’s likeable and when allowed to talk, he does a good job. However, after mumbling and basically walking through this role, I have my doubts. The writing is awful and for an action movie, there is hardly any interesting action to speak of. The supporting cast is not bad, but to be honest are wasted for the most part.
The video and audio presentation is a mixed bag and while the extras are decent, they hardly add anything to the movie. I can not recommend this movie at all or for any reason. If you want to watch Batista, I recommend his three-disc collection from WWE entitled “Batista – I Walk Alone” or the “Best of WWE Smackdown 1999-2009” where he is featured prominently. That is where he shines, at least until he gets a decent movie to play in. The House of the Rising Sun should set in the West and never be seen again.