- Sean Connery as Captain John Connor
- Wesley Snipes as Lt. Web Smith
- Harvey Keitel as Lt. Tom Graham
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Eddie Sakamura
- Tia Carrere as Jingo Asakuma
- Kevin Anderson as Bob Richmond
- Ray Wise as Senator John Morton
A compelling but provocative thriller, Rising Sun functions as something of a commentary on the corruption of big business and less than warm relations between East and West. It gets pretty confounding and confusing in stretches, but it retains interest thanks to visuals and good playing from leads Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.
The setting is Los Angeles, primarily a large, sprawling building that is the place of business for a largely Japanese conglomerate. A party is underway as the company attempts to get a lucrative deal to go through, yet unexpected things will soon take precedence. A blonde escort by the name of Cheryl Austin is found strangled to death in the boardroom, which threatens to cause a scandal for the company. Assigned to the murder case is police detective Web Smith, who is a good enough guy with a few flaws in his past. Also assigned to assist is retired Captain John Connor, whose knowledge of all things Japanese will be beneficial when dealing with suspects within the company. Overseeing things is Smith’s former police partner Tom Graham, who has a vendetta against the Japanese and makes sure everyone knows it. Evidence seems to point towards Eddie Sakamura, a tempestuous playboy who Connor knows the businessman father of. But wise, old Connor suspects that there is a lot more complexity to the case than anyone expected and with his sharp and scrupulous mind, it’s not hard to see why. He is proven right as this turns out to be no open shut case. Both Connor and Smith, though completely opposite in approach, discover it may reach very high up the business ladder and threaten to expose people at the top. Yet just when they think they know what’s going on, something new puts a dangerous spin on things. Chief among these is a tape that could implicate the guilty party, if it wasn’t for tampering with the visuals that are discovered to be altered. The mismatched duo learns to work with each other and used their respective smarts to crack a most bewildering and twisting case.
Philip Kaufman, always a director with a keen eye for visuals, displays that here with stylish atmosphere apparent from the very beginning. He paints a world tinged with noir that is insidious and corrupt from almost every angle( complete with almost constant rain and darkness) One of the biggest criticisms aimed at both the film and the book on which it is based is that it bashes Japan and paints a harsh portrait of business. I can’t vouch for either of those accusations as my knowledge of both is pretty limited. But people who say that the Japanese are portrayed badly here, should look at some of the American characters too. Plenty of them are corrupt and nasty as some of those in the company so I can’t see much of a basis for negative slander here. I can see some parts that could be deemed offensive, but I think Kaufman manages to keep most of these at bay. There is a technological side to Rising Sun that looks a bit dated now, but is nonetheless quite intriguing to watch and observe. In this edgy take, images can be distorted and the blame game soon follows, much like old-fashioned movies with a contemporary twist. An atmospheric score provides the strange backdrop for the murder investigation that proves anything but straightforward due to the sense of culture clash at the heart of the matter. It is the attention to details, much like the character of Connor, that impressed me the most in Rising Sun. It does have moments of action, but like a good thriller the investigative parts are what holds the interest as layer upon layer of complexity builds higher. Now after some time Rising Sun does get just a little bit convoluted and confusing to follow, yet it doesn’t bore you as it keeps you watching despite the often overly complex plot. The relationship of Connor and Smith keeps you rooted in the film and is one of the best parts, thanks to the respect and level footing each find eventually with the other.
Sean Connery is one of Rising Sun’s biggest draws. Exuding an almost stately manner through the character’s knowledge of Japanese customs and a twinkling grin that suggest a wily personality, Connery imprints his stamp on the part of an intelligent man whose attention to detail is what drives the shocking case in front of him. He exudes an avuncular tendency towards his younger charge, close to that of master and apprentice. Connery shares a good working relationship with Wesley Snipes, with the two bouncing off each other with their differing approaches to the murder case. Wesley Snipes more than holds his own against the illustrious Connery; generating dedication and wise ass responses as he becomes more bewildered by the shifting investigation in front of him. Harvey Keitel is reliably on hand to play the vicious and intolerant detective who is more than willing to prosecute the wrong man purely out of hatred. A standout part comes courtesy of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Playing the dissolute playboy who may have been taken for a ride and framed, he shows off both a charisma and fear that grows as the case tangles. As one of the only women in the movie, Tia Carrere provides sexiness and smarts as the computer expert who deduces that the tape that could reveal the criminal has been tampered with. Slimy tactics are the name of the game for both Kevin Anderson and Ray Wise as two men caught up in the corruption.
It may boggle the mind on occasion and some of it can become rather in your face, yet due to the good direction of Kaufman and acting from the lead, Rising Sun has its values as a serpentine thriller that is pretty slick.