Grindstone Entertainment sure puts out a lot of straight to DVD fair. For those who don't know, they are a distribution/sometimes production company who tend to release a lot of crap that usually get's released on DVD via Lionsgate. That out of the way, while they release a lot of action related titles (including "Wrong Side of Town" and the "Tapout Presents" movies), it's a bit of a surprise to see them trying to do something a little different, which is what "House of the Rising Sun" is. Sure, it has action and the usual Grindstone elements (more Gratuitous than usual nudity, a soundtrack mostly made up of terrible Post-Grunge, Nu-Metal and Hip Hop), but this is actually a stab at a Neo-Noir film.
Former wrestler Dave Bautista plays Ray, a former cop turned bouncer. One night, the nightclub he works for is robbed, and the owner's son is shot dead. As Ray looks for those responsible and tries to clear his name, his criminal past is exposed, and the mob and the police-including a former friend named Tony (Dominic Purcell) are in pursuit. Can Ray make it out alive? Can his ex girlfriend Jenny (Amy Smart) help him out?
I will give this much to "House of the Rising Son"-it's not as unwatchable I feared it would be. This is mostly due to the performances from a few cast mates, with Smart in particular stealing the show as Ray's long suffering ex, and Craig Fairbrass doing fine work as the one cop on Ray's side. The production values are also pretty good for a straight to DVD movie, and I liked the cinematography quite a bit.
That's where the positives end though, as this ultimately becomes a bad attempt at trying to do a noir like thriller. Part of the blame goes to many of the other performances, from Purcell overacting, to Danny Trejo not being given much to do. Then there's Bautista. Look, when he worked for WWE, he was great-an athletic, ass kicking, all around awesome guy (plus a snappy dresser) who had charisma to spare. Here, he doesn't get to do much as far as ass kicking is concerned, and whatever charisma he has back in the day is absent here. It especially doesn't help that Ray is a pretty unlikeable guy as a whole, who get's his ass kicked, get's betrayed, insults his ex over the phone, and just acts like an asshole. Why should I root for this character?
Which leads to the biggest problem: this is a movie that has no clue how to do film noir correctly. This is a movie with plenty of police procedural, clues and twists, but most of it doesn't feel that engaging, as we don't get a very good look at Ray's (or anyone else for that matter) psychological baggage. The conclusion is pretty weak too, as it all just ends without a very satisfying resolution.
I will give those responsible for this small kudos for at least trying something different here. Too bad it fails to make it interesting, instead becoming a dud that's ultimately "Film Noir for Dummies." Skip it.