Lazarus Rising Directed by John Depew Written by Rufus Chaffee Starring Mike Pfaff, Devon Ogden, Adoni Maropis & Eric Roberts
Review by Chris Olson
“Where you end up in life is determined by the choices you make…And that’s from a guy who drank himself to death.”
Silly choices are abundant in the filmmaking world, something that can result in defining an artistic work regardless of other contributing factors. John Depew’s indie crime thriller, Lazarus Rising, certainly includes several quizzical decisions, but for the most part delivers a high octane, suspenseful movie that thrills, spills, and kills.
Sprawled out as an on-the-run adventure/thriller, with plenty of action and gun slinging, Lazarus Rising follows the frenetic career of hit man Michael (Mike Pfaff), who turns his back on his employer when his upcoming hit list includes the name of his lover Emma (Devon Ogden). Secrets and bullets litter the screen as Michael eludes the organisation he once represented, who have sent their most vicious attack dog Mr. Gray (Adoni Maropis) in hot pursuit.
Delivered in a brutally efficient and candid manner, Lazarus Rising opts for a tried and tested action formula that rarely deviates from its path. That is not to say the film is without excitement - it certainly provides for plenty of suspense, shoot-outs and death sequences to satisfy even the Van Dammiest of viewers. That being said, there are a few silly choices.
First of all, the script is in desperate need of creative adrenaline; it is derivative schlock piled into frames in order to offer the viewer blatant exposition and mindless development that patronises all the characters involved. It is Action Film 101 writing that serves up disastrous lines like:
Dallen: “Jesus Christ, she was your partner. You didn’t have to shoot her!” Mr. Gray: “I don’t do partners.”
Layered with these script moments and a musical score that is so irksome it feels brutally provocative in a terrible way, some would dismiss Depew’s film out of instant animosity. However, there are several elements of the movie worth paying attention to.
First of all: the performances. Across the board there are some fantastic displays of acting chops, from a cast worthier of better material. Pfaff’s leading role, whilst trudging through the murky lines, manages to portray an enigmatic lead that has the makings of a great action hero. Maropis’ evil henchman is utterly seductive, thrilling in his persistence and terrifying in his brutality. Eric Roberts though, typically a formidable on-screen presence, is dangerously underused in this indie film, rendering him an impotent political schmuck with only the tiniest moments of intrigue.
Another impressive factor of Depew’s movie is the framing. Attention to detail in the framing of certain scenes is superb, with an array of technical and visually stimulating methods used to enrapture the viewer and delight. It is a shame that the story and script fall so superbly flat, because the talent was there, especially in DOP Douglas Gordon.
At times, Lazarus Rising is flat and turgid, self-indulgent to the point of gratuitousness. But there are many glimmers of light that shine through, in particular when focusing on the cast who do their best to support the poor framework. Depew utilises, for the most part, the tools at his disposal, but it all comes back to choices: why choose this story and script for this cast? Why opt for the most basic of fundamentals when you have such an arsenal of talent? And why would allow the line “Rule number three, I don’t kill mothers and children. Unless they interfere with rules 1 and 2.” into an ACTUAL MOVIE?
Watch the Lazarus Rising movie trailer below...