Falcon Rising is a nice throwback to 1980s action films, with strong men at the center going up alone against bad guys. Director Ernie Barbarash thrusts us into the chaotic and colorful atmosphere of Rio but behind of all these little kids playing soccer and blue-green waves crashing on the beach you can always find an underground world full of violence, human traffic and corruption.
John Chapman is still suffering from PTSD that ready to pull a gun at the sound of a car backfiring, why he is constantly looking for someone who can put a bullet in his head we will know in the next movie as this first installment is clearly meant to be a franchise of Falcon adventures.
The acting isn’t perfect, but it does enough to keep you interested and I think everyone performs well. Film has a straight-forward plot that might be a little too heavy on the drama, but if fans want to see a well-shot and interestingly choreographed action they will get it and will see Michael Jai White delivers marvelous kicks.
Chapman going through armed Japanese gangsters with his bare knuckles and it is thrilling… and you can easily believe in it as Michael Jai White leaps, spins and kicks as a true martial artist and quick-cut editing style for these fight sequences works very well.
Michael Jai White stays in top shape in front of the camera and pulls off his action scenes with ease and fighting choreographer Larnell Stovall perfectly knows how to find a balance with how to choreograph him. There is no quick cutting or shaky-cam nonsense but instead well-choreographed fights that are easy to follow.
Actually, on my opinion, Michael always looks too tough and undefeated, he is like a game character in a survival mode with unlimited health, but this is the movie and people like to see a hero going through the challenges. For example, I remember the final 7-minute fight scene from the first Raid where Yayan Rihian fought Iko Uwais and his brother and how hard was it and when the bad guy was finally killed I heard a clear sound of relief of audience, this is where the movie becomes a masterpiece.
I think there was not enough space for a local street cop Katarina and her partner, and a former military buddy Manny played by a very talented and underestimated actor Neal McDonough. I have a feeling that in the first version of the script they should have more screen time and be involved in Chapman’s sister investigation but because of the low budget producers decided to focus on two corrupt cops, but even their characters were not presented as they should. But props must be given for actually filming in Brazil, it’s great to see something not filmed in miserable looking Eastern Europe.
Must admit Lateef Crowder and his partner Jimmy Navarro are the most colorful characters of this movie, but mixing them with Jakuza leader was a bad move as audience confused who the real main bad guy is. Of cause Japanese star Masashi Odate makes a strong impression as the sort of villain who tests the sharpness of his sword by slicing open the stomach of his nearest underling but in the final fight scene Lateef stole the show with amazing Capoeira technique and even powerful Kyokushin chain punches of Michael Jai White and samurai sword cuts could not beat that.
By the way movie also introduced a new actress to the Hollywood, Laila Ali, she is a former professional boxer and is the daughter of the retired heavyweight boxing legend, Muhammed Ali.
Falcon Rising is a straightforward vengeance tale with no other ambition than to entertain but a successful franchise depends on the hero at its center and only time will tell was Falcon Rising a good start.