Lazarus Rising review (2015)

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A hitman finds the tables have turned when he is pursued by a team of assassins in the thriller Lazarus Rising. Check out our review after the jump.

 Lazarus Rising review (2015)

16 minutes into director John Depew’s thriller Lazarus Rising  and we have been introduced to 13 different characters, all with their own nicknames and title cards and yet not one of them is called Lazarus.

Now that in itself is not a criticism, however the constant freeze frame and introduction to characters some of whom are killed almost immediately while others we simply never see again, struck me as more than a little pointless.

Luckily this low budget but enjoyable 80′s style throwback has enough pace about it to make up for the rather stop/start beginning, although its complete implausibility becomes more of a challenge as the film progresses. Performances from a good cast clearly enjoying themselves help make the journey easier to bear.

The film driven by it’s strong cast, although there are far too many characters to keep track of, has a purposely dull visual style of browns and greys and although it perhaps lacks a dark humour that would help balance its noirish feel, it is delivered in a dark and gritty fashion with enough bodies and gunplay to keep interest levels up.

Beginning with a short montage of Michael ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick {Mike Pfaff} getting a good kicking we flashback to four days earlier where the story begins.

After an initial shoot-out in a boxing ring where we get to see a fun cameo from a famous 80′s face, we learn that ‘Fitz’ is a hitman, a hired gun, who works for a company of contract killers, known as disposal agents.

The company from what I could tell is very much like a police department, as Fitz has a partner he goes on jobs with {Megan Le}, an office building he works from and a boss, Dallan, (the scenery-chewing Sal Rendino) whom he reports to.

We are never told which city the company works from but it must be one with very few law enforcers around as this office building full of deadly assassins seems to be hiding in plain sight. While the agents seem to be able to move around town very easily. Shooting marks, innocent people and each other quite often, without any interruption from the cops and ironically considering they are disposal agents without disposing of any evidence.

We figure out early that Fitz is good at his job and is someone who puts his work before anything else, we are also made aware that he never lets the personal and business sides of his life cross. However that is soon all about to change. Lazarus Rising review (2015)

During the introduction of the many (many) characters that populate this world, we meet Fitz’s girl Emma (the luminous Devon Ogden). Fitz had met Emma at a political rally where she was working for the local senator James Connelly, (a terrifically slimy Eric Roberts). Of course Emma has no idea about Fitz’s double life, he tells her he works in security, but similarly Fitz has no idea about a secret Emma has kept hidden away from him and both skeletons are about to come tumbling out of the closet.

Fitz likes to be in control but you see he has started to fall for Emma in a big way, believing that she could be the one, so will he be able to step away from his current career in order to settle down and begin a new life easily? Well as someone once said; the course of true love never did run smooth and when Fitz returns to the company to be given his next job he is more than surprised to see Emma’s name and picture on the new hit list.

It’s now up to Fitz to use all of his specialist training and skills to find out why Emma is on the list and to protect his girl from a group of killers who use to be his colleagues. A task made even more difficult when the companies best assassin the emotionless, psychotic Mr Gray, ( an impressive Adoni Maropis looking every bit as cold and calculating as Yul Brynner’s robot cowboy in Westworld) is sent to eliminate them both.

The key to a low budget action film is it’s set pieces and Lazarus Rising has a number of them that are very good. There are plenty of shoot outs and fist fights and it is the choreography of the fight scenes which stand out. Pfaff, reminding this reviewer of a much tougher Damien Lewis, is every inch the action hero you want with lightning reflexes and showing an impressive array of attacking moves.

The direction by John Depew is very good as some of his shot choices are very interesting while his very quick cutting and editing style helps the film move along at a breakneck pace.  The cinematography remains very gritty throughout and helps the audience imagine what it would be like to spend some time in a city’s horrible under belly full of criminals, thugs and lowlifes.

The script by Rufus Chaffee not only adds to the pace of the film but also allows some breathing space for the more quieter moments. Unfortunately some of these quieter moments tend to interfere with the story. A subplot dealing with the relationship between Fitz and his junkie brother Sean (Sean Carmichael) seems at odds with the rest of the film.

Despite there being a good chemistry and some nice scenes between Pfaff and Carmichael these moments seem like an obvious plot device used to tell the audience that despite everything, Fitz is basically a nice guy.

However earlier in the film we have seen Fitz killing a lot of innocent people in cold blood so trying to make out Fitz is anything other than a man of violence can be jarring. Especially when we just want to see him kick more but, crack more skulls and save the girl.

Lazarus Rising is not as clever as it thinks it is, but it is a well-made thriller with great performances from a cast who were clearly having a ball. It is this enjoyment and enthusiasm for the material that makes Lazarus Rising an excellent way to spend 90 minutes of your time.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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