The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Red Sun Rising (1994)

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This is one that, as far as I can tell, hasn't been released on DVD here in the US (Amazon lists a Region 2 copy). I don't remember when I first saw it, but I believe it was on a cable station in the late 90s. It has a pretty stellar cast, including Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Star Trek Deep Space Nine's Terry Farrell, Mako, Michael Ironside, and the dubious claim that it was introducing us to James Lew-- more on that later. Oh, and it also has Jacqueline Obradors from Soldier Boyz-- Brophey!

Red Sun Rising has Wilson as a Tokyo detective who watches his partner, Albert Pyun mainstay Yuji Okumoto, get killed by the evil James Lew and his magical martial arts powers. Wilson tracks him and his boss to LA, where he encounters Farrell and Ironside at the local police department, not exactly helping him, but also worried about their own problems with a looming gang war. What does James Lew and his Japanese crime boss have to do with an impending gang war in LA? And can Wilson learn enough from Okumoto's uncle, played by Mako, to defeat Lew?

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This was pretty fun. Funny, yes, but fun too. Wilson has some of his better fights, and he and Lew have some good ones at the end. Mako and Ironside were great in supporting roles, though I could've done with more Ironside. The stand out for me was Terry Farrell. She was great. She was hot as always, but also very funny, very good as a tough cop, and carried Wilson in the scenes that required him to do a lot of acting. That was huge, because it allowed Wilson to focus on the fight scenes. Sure, the whole idea of the mystical Japanese martial arts energy which manifested itself in the death poke was very silly, as were James Lew's blue contacts and too sweet mullet. It was good for what it was, a 1990s DTV actioner, and I'm not sure we can ask for anything more than that.

I think we've had a bit of a string of stinkers for Wilson at the DTVC, so it was good to have this one to break that up. It goes without saying that dramatic acting is not Wilson's strength on-screen, that it's his fighting ability that sells his films. What made Red Sun Rising so great, was that it recognized that, allowing him to take a back seat in scenes with Yuji Okumoto, Mako, and especially Farrell, then making sure he had ample opportunity to show us what he could do in the fight scenes. I like that, why make someone like Wilson, who's an athlete first, and actor second, have to do all the heavy lifting, when you have real professionals that can lead, and he can follow their lead, allowing him to react naturally, more than conjure up acting skills that aren't natural.

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How do you not love Terry Farrell? Not just Deep Space Nine, but also in Becker, where she was great playing off Ted Danson. According to imdb, she dated Michael Dorn. Can you imagine that? Because they both have great voices, imagine the voice work empire they could've ruled. The funny thing is, I saw her on an episode of Family Ties recently, where she played hottie neighbor Liz Obeck. Great name, huh, Liz Obeck. Anyway, also on imdb, it says she retired from acting around 2002 to focus on her marriage and family.

This film makes a very dubious claim: that it is introducing James Lew. Even if one were to argue that the bulk of his work before that was in bit parts and stunt work, there was still American Ninja V, where he played the main enemy ninja. What, ninja roles don't count? Okay, maybe Red Sun Rising was made prior to AMV, but released after, I'll accept that. But then there's Mission of Justice, or Night of the Warrior, or his TJ Hooker guest spot. Sure, you guys introduced us to James Lew, wink wink, nudge nudge.

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Finally, there's a great scene where James Lew blows up a car with a rocket launcher. There's just something about that, a man with a well-feathered mullet, rocking a heavy duster, with the lights of LA against the black of the night in the background, taking a rocket launcher out of a cheap industrial van, and blowing up a car with it-- especially in the early 90s. People often ask me what it is about these "bad movies" that I like so much, and it's that, all of that I just described. People who know, understand what I'm saying.

VHS is your best route for this one, unless you live outside the States, and then you might find it on DVD. I wouldn't go too far out of your way, because it's not that awesome, but if it pops up on cable late at night-- or even during the day-- you could do a lot worse than watching it. Just a solid 1990s DTV actioner.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107937/

11 comments:

  1. This was one of the better Dragon efforts. They could've used more Soon Tech-Oh, Yuji Okumoto and Michael Ironside but the martial arts fight sequences were well done, The main problem was that you can imagine how wonderful and first rate with Mark Dacascos or Brandon Lee (Later on) and Sho Kosugi. The Dragon was the biggest minus, I guess it's not too bad but it goes from a three stars to even higher. Mainly cause The Dragon's Japanese accent was atrocious and he sounds way too American. James Lew was effective and Terry Farrel makes for a great love interest. Overall I liked Red Sun Rising but it could've been better.

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  2. Thought this wasn't too bad. Will have to re-watch it some day. Gotta love The Dragon!

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  3. Wilson's character in Red Sun Rising grew up in Cedar Rapids, that's why he didn't have a Japanese accent. You could say it's like Van Damme growing up in New Orleans and that's why he speaks French, only not as contrived.

    It's interesting that you mention Dacascos, because with the right roles-- like a lot of the ones Wilson had in the 90s-- Dacascos would be in the Hall of Fame. Why doesn't he get those roles, I wonder.

    You definitely have it right, Ty, this is wasn't too bad. I'm reviewing it for the Wilson factor first, and then because of all the guest stars it has, but for anyone reading this, it's more a case of, if you happen upon the movie, go for it, but don't go to too much trouble to get it.

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  4. As far as Dacascos vs The Dragon debate goes. I'll take Drive against anything The Dragon has done and that includes Bloodfist III and Blackbelt. That said The Dragon has never made a movie as awful as Boogie Boy.

    You need more Dacascos movies, like The Base (From director Mark L. Lester) Sabotage (With Carrie Anne Moss)China Strike Force and while I didn't care for Crying Freeman and hated Only The Strong a lot of people love those movies.

    The Dragon is more schlocky. I would put Dacascos on par with Dudikoff as B-level. While the Dragon is strictly for us fans of the genre. Like Lorenzo Lamas.

    For instance The Dragon was never in a movie that was as popular as American Ninja or even Avenging Force. Dacascos though was in Double Dragon (Which sucked),Brotherhood Of The Wolf, Cradle 2 The Grave and Only The Strong.

    My point is, while The Dragon makes movies that are more consistent in tone, Dacascos has higher peaks (Drive, Sabotage,Brotherhood Of The Wolf, and Cradle 2 The Grave) and lower valleys. (Hunt For Eagle One, Boogie Boy and Double Dragon)

    Indeed Kickboxer 5 is basically Dacascos in a Dragon styled movie.

    Another thing that clearly worked against The Dragon was his voice. Which was high pitched and often comical when yelling "Get Down" or "Fuck You Geek!" Also his heroes are always whiter than white, it's why Redemption didn't work. Exception-Bloodfist III

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  5. I have both The Bases on Watch Instantly, and was considering part one for next week, so we'll see what happens. As far as China Strike Force... hmmm... China Strike Force... it would be great if I reviewed China Strike Force... that's a great idea, maybe I'll review China Strike Force next week instead of The Base.

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  6. All I can say is that i'm a moron. I forgot to say but I actually sort of enjoyed Alien Agent. It had a really hot chick in it, Also Billy Zane was a good villain and Dacascos was fun. Not up to Drive standards but not bad.

    Sabotage though is good. I'm not sure how you will go on Crying Freeman cause i'm the only one sort of let down by it.

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  7. I've been thinking about Alien Agent, but it keeps getting pushed down the pile by other films with bigger names. Thanks for reminding me, I'll keep it in mind for future posts.

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  8. Totally forgot about this one- thanks for the review, I now have to go re-watch it. I enjoyed it quite a bit back in the day.

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  9. No problem, glad I could remind you of it. It's always good to have a blast from the past.

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  10. ممكن اعرف احميل الفليم منين او فين رابط التحميل

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  11. Just re-watched it this week. It was even better than i remembered! Gotta love "the death touch" laser and sound effects.

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