John ‘Falcon’ Chapman is an ex-marine, hampered by a troubled past. As a man that has hit rock bottom and only finds salvation in the bottom of a whiskey bottle, he takes every opportunity to put himself in danger to appease his demons. One day a friendly calling card comes to him from his sister, caring social worker Cindy, to give him a little time for reflection on how to straighten out his misguided life. This has little lasting impact on him until weeks later he receives a call to find that Cindy has been the victim of a savage attack and left for dead in a Brazilian favela.
Falcon now has a new reason to be angry and a purpose to put some meaning back into his distressed life. When he sets off to Sao Paulo to find out the truth behind his sister’s attack, he uncovers a murky plot involving local gangs and Japanese yakuza that sets him off as a one man war machine against all who stand in his way of getting justice for his sister.
Falcon Rising delivers us a straight-to-dvd, no-holds-barred action jolt straight from the slums of Brazil. From the off, Michael Jai White is playing a man at odds with his sketchy military past, a man with a death wish being choked by his dark demons. The run of flashbacks that take us to scenes set in the Gulf War paint a slowly revealing, bloody picture of what is haunting him, but without giving away the full story. Boozing it up and playing Russian Roulette with 9mm shells sunk at the bottom of a shot of Jack Daniels and walking into a liquor store hold-up just to toy with the assailants; this sets up our leading man as somebody that you would not want to mess with on a dark and stormy night.
If you take the sheer menacing size of Michael Jai White, loaded with an arsenal of unfettered guilt and rage, plus his tactful demeanour, you’ll get what John ’Falcon’ Chapman is about. He does a good job at playing the rough and tumble detective that can switch between using subtle lines of enquiry, just as easily as he can turn on the thumbscrews by flushing heads down toilets and getting down and dirty with the gunplay and martial arts action in the streets. Falcon is top-notch in taking down the bad guys and dropping them like a bad habit.
At aged 47 Michael Jai White is in tip-top shape with his physical condition. Being well buffed up and holding 7 black belts in various martial arts styles, he certainly shows that he still has all of the agility and class of a top rate martial artist who is still able to pull off the dynamics to entertain fight fans that know what to expect of him.
There are some fine moments that show us what the best of Brazilian martial arts have to offer; what would an action film set in Brazil be if there wasn’t a little Capoeira thrown in there? The flamboyant dance-based kicking style gets its chance to shine in a great sequence between the best of the best of cop and criminal in a lethal stand-off. As the tension heightens, we see an interesting showdown in the end that sees yakuza swordplay, Brazilian Capoeira and MMA mix up a pretty decent melee of styles, which brings us an entertaining final fight that fuses and showboats a more complete sequence from the snippets of fight styles that we see throughout the film.
The plot is a thin one that is far from original, but its setting of Brazilian slums uses its cultural and worldly elements to bring a richer tone to the story. It touches on the social awareness of crime in a deeply deprived third world country that shows the disparity between rich and poor and how crime thrives in this environment and affects those who both embrace it and fight against it. We get a walkthrough narrative of what happens in the favela: how people live, how lives are affected by the dominance of gangs and drugs, police corruption, death squads, child prostitution and child trafficking. The choice of setting does do the story justice in a way that would have otherwise rehashed a fairly basic plot if it had been set in a more conventional location. I mean, did you know that after Japan, there are more Japanese nationals living in Brazil than in any other part of the world?
Michael Jai White is back and carries off this leading role in his own rugged, no frills style that entertains in action and delivers exactly what it is supposed to.
Review by Martin Goolsarran
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Falcon Rising is out now on DVD and VOD.