Based upon the real life experiences of writer/director Mack Lindon, Rise is an Australian film arriving stateside for a DVD/VOD release with indie distributor Vision Films on May 10th. In the film, Lindon is called Will McIntyre (Nathan Wilson), a promising young nurse who is accused of spiking a young woman's drink and raping her during what he asserts was a one-night stand. With little initial evidence to support his claim, Will is convicted and sentenced to a maximum security prison for six years. He would spend 19 months in prison until his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Victoria upon a retrial.
Rise brings to remind the film Self-Medicated, a 2005 indie fest darling from writer/director/star Monty Lapica about his own life experiences, though this film is definitely superior to that film that ultimately tanked once arriving in theaters. It's difficult to estimate Rise's prospects for the U.S. home video market, though the film's not so subtle inspirational tones may very well appeal to those who appreciate films about justice, perseverance and fixing a system that makes far too many mistakes and ruins far too many lives.
The story in Rise is an important one, though this may be a case where Lindon would have been better off leaving the actual directorial work to someone else. Tasked with telling his own story, Lindon instead infuses Rise with a slew of prison stereotypes and scenes that feel like they've been played out in other prison-centered films more effectively.
While it may sound like I'm completely dismissing Rise, I'm not. In fact, while their friendship is rather inexplicable, five-time Australian Award winner Martin Sacks' turn as repeat offender Jimmy Cove is the film's highlight and a rather riveting portrayal of how one learns to control a system that is ultimately in control. Sacks is absolutely terrific here.
Scenes involving Fung Poi (Marty Rhone), a brain-injured inmate in a wheelchair for whom Will is tasked with providing care, provide Rise with an emotional honesty that is otherwise too often lacking in the film.
There's an earnestness to Rise that may very well play perfectly for faith-based audiences, though the film's edgier tone may limit that market potential. Newcomer Wilson's portrayal of the openly sensitive Will is quiet and understated. In the film's early scenes, Wilson projects just the right amount of confidence in Will that makes us wonder, at least for a few moments, where the truth actually lies once the rape charges have been made.
If there's a place where Rise is lacking, it's in the always difficult to pull off inspirational court scenes that wind the story down and bring us toward the inevitable conclusion. The closing court scenes try to play off a tension that hasn't been built up, thus making Erin Connor's scenes as Julie Nile come off as a tad overwrought.
Rise may not quite be the entertaining and inspirational film that it aspires to be, but it does tell an involving and important story about the human spirit, overcoming and how quickly a system can ruin lives yet never be held accountable once proven wrong. Led by a terrific performance from Martin Sacks and an involving story, Rise rests alongside such films as The Castle in telling a story that you may not realize you want to hear but you will likely never forget.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic