RISING SUN has some effective elements—the presence of star Sean Connery, sleek production design, a tense score from Tōru Takemitsu. But director Philip Kaufman wimps out on his overall handling of Michael Crichton’s bestselling polemic about Japanese business practices in the United States. Changing key roles to suit p.c. demands and adding some gratuitous, bogus action scenes further dumb it down. Dogged by controversy to start with, the fiddling gutted what was better read than shown. Nonetheless, a box office success in 1993, thanks to teaming Sean with the then-hot Wesley Snipes.
A call girl is found dead. It looks like a sex crime, or at least rough-sex gone a gasp too far. But it happened during a swank Los Angeles gathering of powerful businessmen and politicians and the girl was the Caucasian plaything of Japanese playboy ‘Eddie Sakamura’ (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a rival of the Japanese corporation throwing the gala. They were trying to seal a deal to buy an American tech company. Called to investigate are former police captain ‘John Connor’ (Connery), an expert in Japanese culture, and detective ‘Web Smith’ (Snipes), who bridles at taking a subservient position to Connor. Added racial/national/sexual tension comes from surly cop ‘Graham’ (Harvey Keitel), Japanese bigwig ‘Yoshida’ (Mako) and mixed-race computer wonk ‘Jingo Asakuma’ (Tia Carrere). Add a slick U.S. Senator, the Yakuza, a bevy of high-end hookers, a crew of gangbangers and some golf (because Connery liked golf).
Sean’s in svelte form, Snipes not bad, Keitel one-note (as usual) and out-of-place. The sleaze-tease death of the call girl (played by model Tatjana Patitz) is shown so often it gets numbing. The tossed-in scene where Snipes enlists some “homies” (one of those bullshit p.c. movie/TV mixes that have black & Latino gangs working together–just like real life!) to sandbag some pursuing Japanese hoods is so flat-out ridiculous it nearly stops the movie, which then limps to an anti-climactic finish. The book took no prisoners. The movie is flashy but feeble.
Crichton was upset with the changes Kaufman made to his story and left in a huff: both men and Michael Backes (who was also fed up with Kaufman) get screen credit. David Mamet pitched in as well, probably upping the profanity count. Speaking of doof moves, who made the incorrect decision to have Carrere keep her clothes on?
Assorted slimes are handled by Ray Wise, Kevin Anderson, Stan Egi, Steve Buscemi, Stan Shaw and Clyde Kasutsu. Looking in quickly are Tony Ganios (from The Wanderers, complete with toothpick) and Tamara Tunie. Some $40,000,000 was in play: the US gross of $63,180,000 put it 17th nationally in ’93, with an additional $44,019,000 earned elsewhere. 125 minutes.