When an escort girl is found dead in the offices of a Japanese company in Los Angeles, detectives Web Smith and John Connor act as liaison between the company's executives and the investigating cop Tom Graham.
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At the offices of a Japanese corporation, during a party, a woman, who's evidently a professional mistress, is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Web Smith is called in to investigate but before getting there, he gets a call from someone who instructs him to pick up John Connor, a former police Captain and expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive there Web thinks that everything is obvious but Connor tells him that there's a lot more going on. Written by
There is a credit in Rising Sun thanking "The MIT Leg Lab" and "Marc Raibert and his Running Team." This refers to a short scene where the two detectives go out to a fancy-looking research lab (really a water treatment plant; also used as the set for Starfleet Academy on the TV series "Star Trek - The Next Generation). In the background of some of the shots there are two legged robots: one hopping in a circle in a tea-house; the other bouncing up a garden path. These robots are actually academic research projects from the MIT AI Lab's Legged Locomotion Lab. They really do hop about and maintain their balance. Power comes from off-board hydraulic pumps (hence the guy in the background (me!) pulling hoses for the robot), and body attitude is sensed with gyroscopes. A human with a joystick tells the robot what direction to go, and the control algorithms (which are the real subject of Leg Lab research) maintain speed, direction, and balance. However, the robots aren't designed for special effects. They're always being modified, and they tend to break down frequently. This made shooting in the hot july sun of the San Fernando Valley a real nightmare, with transputers crashing in the heat, stuck gyros, and hydraulic leaks. Three grad students and a professor worked steadily for about a month before Hollywood, and then five days on the set and on location to get the robots in about 15 seconds of film. The credits are: Marc Raibert (our prof), and Charles Francois, Rob Playter and Lee Campbell (me) who are students. We three students appear in the film in white lab coats acting like Robot Scientists!! See more »
Scenes of cowboys on horseback, and Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In"... reassuring cultural markers which quickly dissolve as we find ourselves in the steely 19990's in a Los Angeles that has been snaffled by the Japanese. The western and the music are mere karaoke images. Americans had better learn how to bow, because their masters are moving in.
"Rising Sun" is a sophisticated thriller which flips neatly between fear of the sinister Japanese (electronic surveillance, big business buyouts, Yakuza) and a deep understanding of, and reverence for, Japanese culture. Wesley Snipes plays Web Smith, a lieutenant in the LAPD assigned to investigate a murder on the Los Angeles premises of a Japanese corporation. He has Captain John Connor attached to him (Sean Connery), an older man who is believed to have 'gone native' and sold his soul to the Japanese.
At every turn, American short-sightedness is losing out to the Japanese hardball players. One of the film's morals is, if we don't like the way they are buying up our assets, we have no business selling them in the first place. Japanese strength comes from the social discipline and immense intellectual vigour of their way of life. "We may come from a fragmented MTV-rap-video culture," says Conner, "but they do not."
Conner has studied the eastern way and is respected by the Japanese for his grace and learning. He guides Web Smith along the path of enlightenment in the course of solving the murder mystery. They adopt the traditional sampai-kohai relationship, the tutelage of a wise elder from which a worthy young man learns.
In this story of cutting-edge video fakery, the film exploits images intelligently. We see reflections of Web and Jingo on the TV monitor as they analyse the 'ghost'. Connor effects a clever 'look-back' on the lab's video camera, hinting at hidden permutations in the characters' relationships. Time after time, we are led persuasively down a line of reasoning, only to find that it is a chimera. As Connor says, "When something looks too good to be true, then it's not true."
There are some weaknesses in the film's structure. 'The Weasel', the journalist tracking Web, is badly misconceived. His place in the story is negligible and his dramatic possibilities are abandoned almost as soon as he is introduced. The reliance of Web on his old 'brothers' to intimidate the Japanese pursuers is lame and patronising, with its 'boyz'n'the hood' silliness. To describe these 'rough neighbourhoods' as 'America's last great advantage' is patent hogwash. The corrupt senator is the tired stock-in-trade of these thrillers, and fails to convince. The reaction of Morton's wife to the fax transmissions is utterly unrealistic and melodramatic. That two LAPD cops should beat up half a dozen Japanese thugs using karate is frankly insulting, even to Japanese thugs.
The performance of Sean Connery is very impressive. He plays Connor with the clear intelligence and the confidence in his own powers which such a man would surely possess. He alone understands both cultures, and therefore he alone can solve the riddle. Because Connery is convincing, the film is a success.
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