Rise: Blood Hunter is what you get when you take the sexy female vampire Underworld shtick and suck all the moody, gothic stylistics out of it, leaving something that doesn’t quite have an aesthetic it’s own at all, and feels awkward. It does have one thing going for it though: Lucy Liu. She gives Kate Beckinsale a run for her money in terms of physicality, sex appeal and stunt work, but it’s too bad she wasn’t given a film that rose up to meet her talent. She plays a reporter here who wakes up on a morgue slab one day and realizes she’s been turned into a vampire by the very same satanic cult that she had prior been investigating. Loaded with souped up powers, she begins a bloody journey to exact revenge on them one by one and put a stop to their nocturnal shenanigans. There’s a subplot involving a cop (Michael Chicklis) who’s looking for his missing sister, but ultimately it’s a series of violent, dimly lit confrontations as Liu hunts the cult down to their nasty leader (James D’Arcy is a bit too pretty boy for such a built up villain. There’s supporting work from Holt Mccallany, Carla Gugino and random cameos from Nick Lachey, Marilyn Manson and the great Robert Forster who’s talent is wasted on a bit part that any extra could have done in their sleep. You’ve gotta hand it to Liu, she’s a fountain of star-power and presence, but not even she could carry this beyond SyFy’s movie of the week syndrome.
Pawn is another gift from the assembly line of slightly muddled second tier crime dramas, cobbled together with elements of greats from yesteryear, and barely held together at the seam by acting titans who have fallen on hard times chasing that almighty paycheque. That’s not to say it’s bad (although plenty of its breed are woeful), but simply inconsequential and forgettable. Starting off with a simple diner robbery that will inevitably spiral beyond control, we meet a band of clueless petty thieves lead by Michael Chiklis, doing his utter best with a silly cockney accent that has no reason to exist here. Little do these geniuses know, the diner they picked to lift happens to be a front for the Russian mob, setting off a chaotic chain of events that could end in all their deaths. The mob panics, and brings in everyone they can to clutter things up. Two corrupt cops show up, one inside the diner, played by Forest Whitaker, looking like he had some trouble understanding his portion of the script, and one outside, played by Marton Csokas who is underused a lot it seems. Common shows up as a hostage negotiator of all things, which made me chuckle. Stephen Lang is dangerously quiet as the restaurant owner and strong arm of the Russians. He hires a chatty Ray Liotta to hold one of the thieves wives (Nikki Reed) hostage and appear vaguely menacing until everything blows over. So we have scenes of him talking to her in cyclical metaphors interspersed with all the intrigue going down at the diner, and it all amounts to… what, exactly? Well, you’ll have to take a look for yourself, but the while thing seemed rather pointless to me.