Falcon Rising (2014) ☆☆☆(3/4) : It’s a solid start for whatever will come next

Falcon-Rising-2 “Falcon Rising” is as much as you can expect from a B-action flick featuring a lonely tough guy hero and a bunch of bad guys guaranteed to get his vengeful wrath in the end. This is indeed a very familiar type of action film as reflected by its fairly simple plot and broad characterization, but it is a well-made film with some style and skills, and it comes to me as something more engaging than many average blockbuster action films.

When we meet John Chapman (Michael Jai White) at the beginning, he is in his shabby apartment somewhere in New York while going through his usual sullen, depressing mode. Suffering from the post-traumatic stress disorder fueled by the memories of violence and death during his military years, he spends most of his time with drinking, but that does not ease his pain much, and we see him attempting Russian roulette with a ritualistic attitude which suggests that this may be not his first attempt.

At least, there is one single light in his barren daily life, and that comes from his sister Cindy (Lalia Ali), who has been working as a volunteer worker in a slum area of Rio de Janeiro. When she makes a visit to her brother on one day, Chapman shows his nicer sides while looking like a big awkward child in front of his sister, and his mood becomes brightened a bit as he spends a brief time with Cindy.

Not long after Cindy returns to Rio de Janeiro, her unconscious body covered with bruise and blood is found in the slum area, and the local cops notify this horrible incident to Manny Ridley (Neal McDonough), an American government official who also happens to be Chapman’s old military buddy. As soon as recognizing Cindy from her photo, Ridley sends a message to his friend, and Chapman quickly flies over to Rio de Janeiro to see his sister at a local hospital. While waiting for his sister to regain her consciousness, Chapman becomes determined to find out who is behind Cindy’s misery, and Ridley knows too well that he must assist his friend as much as he can.

falconrising02 As Chapman pokes around the slum area where his sister has worked with lots of dedication, the movie establishes the vivid sense of locations through the realistic sights around a neglected society where its poor people mostly depend on gangsters who give them more help and assistant than the incompetent government. The people in this shabby area, which is called favela, usually trust their neighborhood gangsters more than the police, and Katarina (Millie Ruperto), a young police officer who sincerely wants to help them, has tried hard to get their trust through her good will.

However, Thiago (Jimmy Navarro), a local detective eager to get any good chance to get rid of criminals in his area, prefers a more brutal tactic, and he certainly does not approve of Katrina’s soft approach. He also shows a troubling obsession with his duty especially when he is allowed to sweep the area with his task force team later in the story, and we come to sense there is something personal about his obsession.

Meanwhile, Chapman gathers the clues step by step, and it is gradually revealed that his sister became a target to be eliminated as she was digging into the questionable missing cases of young girls in the neighborhood, who were assumed to be dead after they suddenly disappeared. Whoever was not very pleased with her investigation, it becomes clear to Chapman that his sister is still in danger, and that motivates him more as his mind and body are returning to his old combative mode.

Falcon-Rising-4 While there is not much surprise when the main villain character and his gangs enter the scene during its later part, “Falcon Rising” serves us with several physical action scenes as Chapman goes deeper into a powerful and ruthless crime organization, and the director Ernie Barbarash expertly handles these scenes with kinetic excitement to appreciate. During my recent viewing of “Taken 3” (2015), I was constantly distracted by its choppy editing and shaky handheld camera work with no clear sense of action, but the action scenes in “Falcon Rising” feel smooth and fluid as letting us get involved in the movements on the screen, and it surely helps that the actors really threw themselves into these scenes.

Supplying his dark, troubled character with enough amount of brooding gravitas, Michael Jai White, whom I fondly remember for his comic performance in “Black Dynamite” (2009), certainly looks fit enough to take care of all the bad guys in the film. As a skilled martial artist, he looks both convincing and effortless with other actors during his action scenes, and we get a number of exciting moments such as when his character has to depend on his body (and a suitcase) to fight against a group of henchmen. The movie eventually arrives at a typical finale involved with many extras ready to attack Chapman in some warehouse, and this climax sequence culminates to a well-choreographed moment as Chapman has to deal with three different kinds of threats at once.

As implied during its final scene, “Falcon Rising” is intended as the introductory chapter for the planned action franchise, and I heard later that its production company is planning its sequel at present. As an entertaining action movie a bit better than other similar action films, “Falcon Rising” is a solid start for whatever will come next, and you may have some expectation as its self-destructive hero accepts a more product way of living in the end.

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