CINEMA RELEASE: RISE
Release date: 6th November 2014
Director: Mack Lindon
Cast: Nathan Wilson, Martin Sacks, Marty Rhone, Erin Connor
Classification: M (Mature Themes, Violence and Coarse Language)
Review by Peter Gray
To say it’s been an underwhelming year for Australian films would be an understatement. Though we have had a few gems (‘Predestination’, ‘Felony’) the commercial reaction has been pitiful, and sadly a film like ‘Rise’ is unlikely to steer this course to an alternate outcome. As we are informed through a title card in the closing credits “It’s not how many times you fall, but how may you rise”, and indeed it’s a theme running rampant through a film that has more passion and energy than it does money but the important message it hopes to convey doesn’t overshadow the unevenness that sadly stifles the production.
Mack Lindon, debuting as both writer and director, has constructed the film based off his own experience of being accused of rape and serving jail time for a crime he didn’t commit. Mack’s screen alter-ego is Will (Nathan Wilson), who we are introduced to in a messy opening montage that sets up his party-boy lifestyle and his medical career aspirations before he’s heavily inebriated at a nightclub which leads to a one night stand. The idea is better than the execution but it at least gets us to the main story without wasting too much time; although some development wouldn’t have gone astray.
After losing his trial and being handed a sentence of six years imprisonment, Will (initially dubbed “pretty boy”) doesn’t wait too long behind bars before he makes his presence known and he strikes up a bond with hardened criminal Jimmy Cove (Martin Sacks), a jailbird notorious for a string of armed robberies who, if the rumours are correct, ate a man’s ear for breakfast. It’s a friendship that seems unlikely, and if this wasn’t based on a true story, you’d accuse the film of sugarcoating their relationship. Another significant connection in Will’s life is one which he shares with Fung Poi (Marty Rhone), a wheelchair-bound inmate, in for murder, whose run-ins with fellow prisoners has left him mute and incompetent, leaving Will to be his carer due to his medical background. Fung’s plight is perhaps the most haunting with Rhone delivering a brave performance that occasionally brings the film out of its mediocrity.
It goes without saying that ‘Rise’ is a deeply personal film to Lindon, and you have to admire his dedication to getting this story off the ground and into development – he began writing the script in jail and, after seeking advice from Rob Stitch, created a “pitch trailer” following his release which won the Best Trailer award at the Hollyshorts Film Festival in 2013 – but there’s an underdevelopment in the script and a jarred flow to the film that can’t be ignored despite the strength that lies within the film’s integrity. Sacks and Wilson (who has a sense of young Damon/DiCaprio about him) deliver fine performances, Rhone is a standout and the various cellmates are all thankfully void of too many clichés, leading the film to portray life in an Australian prison in a far more believable way.
The film’s third act where Will’s lawyer compromises her status to prove his innocence is perhaps the weakest with questionable editing and audio choices, and Erin Connor’s performance as the barrister feeling staged and insincere but, again, you can never accuse the film of not having everyone involved completely committed to the story that’s being told. It’s a true story more complex and stranger than fiction, and it’s clear Lindon has a passion for this form of media so we can only hope the direction to go from here is up.
My rating: 2.5/5