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Rise: Blood Hunter (2006)
Director: Sebastian Gutierrez

review by Barbara Davies

There seems to be a vogue for vampire films that start with reporters investigating obscure vampire websites. The Last Sect was one such. Rise: Blood Hunter is another. But whereas in The Last Sect all its vampires were women, Rise: Blood Hunter is an equal opportunity employer.

Former LA Weekly reporter Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) doesn't like being a vampire and sets about taking her revenge on the pair who 'turned' her. Bishop (James D'Arcy) and Eve (Carla Gugino) are a nasty lot, prone to saying things like "Sex and murder are the only real pleasures left to man." And messy eaters doesn't begin to describe their table manners, perhaps because they don't have the usual canines and instead use tiny knives to slash their victims' jugulars.

As usual, it's up to the director to decide on the attributes used for his particular 'take' on vampires. These have no reflections (a fact put to excellent use) but they also have fully functioning circulatory systems and heal faster than humans... but not instantly. We are also told "They cannot die. At least not like regular people." Yet they clearly can... if bled like a kosher carcass or shot through the heart by a special crossbow bolt.

Sadie starts her search for Bishop with his clean-up man Poe (a cameo by Mako, in his last live action role), and works her way up through his henchmen, despatching them one by one with the garlic-infused crossbow bolts supplied by mysterious alchemist Arturo (Julio Oscar Mechoso). But bullet-headed cop Clyde Rawlins (Michael Chiklis), whose daughter was one of the vampires' victims, is hot on Sadie's trail. Will Rawlins get to Sadie, who he views as a serial killer, before she gets to Bishop, or can she convince him to join forces, and, once she has achieved her goal, put her out of her misery? As the two close in on their respective quarries, flashbacks fill us in on how Sadie got to be this way, including the traumatic moment she woke up in the morgue.

The opening sequence (featuring a very brief cameo from Robert Forster) made me wonder rather queasily whether I was going to be asked to empathise with a heroine or a villain. But once Liu's 'good guy' credentials have been established, Rise: Blood Hunter turns into an entertaining, action-packed, revenge thriller, though it's occasionally rather too blood-soaked for my taste. The flashbacks as the mystery of Sadie's past unfolds can be confusing, and I soon learned to keep an eye on her hair length - pre-vampire it was long. There's also an unexplained touch of the Catholic priest about Bishop, Poe, and Arturo, which left me wondering if some of the vampire backstory was left on the cutting room floor. As for the trick ending, Gutierrez really should have resisted using it, as it fatally undermines what went before.

Whether portraying the scared, vulnerable human Sadie was or the assured, driven avenger she's become, Liu (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) effortlessly carries the film and delivers some great one-liners. For the final third, she shares the honours with Chiklis (Fantastic Four), and they make a convincing, surprisingly humorous double act. As for the supporting players, D'Arcy (Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World) gives a deft performance as the quietly sinister and oh so English Bishop, but it is Gugino who brings charisma and a surprising vulnerability to her role and leaves you wanting more.

Universal's region 2 DVD extras: the original storyboards from four separate sequences are provided for comparison against the final footage. And four short 'mobisodes' discuss, with members of the cast and crew, the blood (natch!), sex and murder, location, and stunts.
Rise: Blood Hunter

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