Michael Jai White is a man.
He collects things like: Martial Art black belts, 8 in total now, and roundhouse driven action titles.
He is man that makes films for men. Real men, not angel food fingered bloggers who review his films. He makes films for men who know how to change their own oil; men who think “loud” is a type of music, and smile at bruised knuckles and black eyes. He’s a tough hombre’ in a world of tree hugging hipsters.
The Falcon Rising, very much embodies White’s persona. It’s tough and realistic. MJW plays John “Falcon” Chapman a former marine back from service in Afghanistan. He is not the parade and charity cook-off hero, he has seen bloody things and they can’t escape him. Falcon is more comfortable playing Russian roulette and drinking the devils nectar than discussing his PTSD. He’s a Charles Bronson Death Wish fantasy living the 21st century trip. He is a man out of time.
Falcon’s world of despair in New York quickly changes after a short visit from his sister played by new comer Laila Ali. Ali is returning to Brazil’s slums to continue her charity work. Shortly after her return, Falcon is told she was savagely beaten by some scumbags. Suddenly, this wreaking machine has something to live for and a new target to destroy.
Falcon is meet in Brazil by his old chum Manny Ridley (Neal McDonough) a state department chief with an unmentioned but hinted at adventurous past. Together with the local cops they begin to hunt for his sisters attackers in the drug infested, child-hookering, poverty-stricken streets of Rio run by the Yakuza. Rio becomes an important character. The city is as seedy as it is enchanting.
The film plays out like a late 70’s early 80’s action flick. As much as I feel much of White’s career seems out of time, this film really does feel out-of-place in today’s cinema landscape. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s a great thing! If this film was made in ’87 it would have starred Stallone and Powers Booth as the villain.
Ernie Barbarash’s (6 Bullets) direction is solid. Like all MJW films the action scenes pay the bills, and they don’t disappoint. The camera work is reliable and never gets fancy. No CGI, the stunts are real. The final fight is a real knock out. Falcon stands in the middle of kung-fu inspired Mexican standoff, you can imagine the mayhem that follows.
MJW is dependable as he is honest in his portrayal of Chapman ,and outside of Black Dynamite, this is, in my opinion, his best role to date. The supporting cast led by the always likable McDonough is top-notch. McDonough will always hold favor with me for his role as Buck Compton in “Band of Brothers”. Ali defiantly holding her own in the film is a huge bonus. The real surprise for me was Spanish actor, Jimmy Navarro, in the role of Thiago Santo, a street wise detective caught between the badge and ambition.
This is a film for men. It’s bloody and honest, and I dug it.
A sequel for Falcon has been planned for 2015. White has promised the Falcon franchise to be a strong alternative to the strap-on muscle superhero flicks invading our summer movie schedules. I for one applaud him in the endeavor.
Falcon Rising hits VOD Sept. 4th and in limited release one day later.
You can catch my exclusive interview with Michael Jai White next week on the podcast. We discuss not only the Falcon Rising (and a squeal spoiler), karate, but also the Toxic Avenger, and perhaps a little Spawn for you fan boys.