Rise (2014, Australia)
You know how sometimes one scene or one line in a movie just loses you, and you can’t find a way back in? Early in Rise nurse Will McIntyre (Nathan Wilson) is falsely accused of spiking the drink of and then raping a girl with whom he has had a one night stand. At his trial, the prosecutor asks the victim to tell the court what happened next. Falteringly, she begins with, “He had my arms pressed under…” and McIntyre’s barrister jumps up and interjects, “Your Honour, this is all hearsay evidence!” Eh? Really?
The film is based on the real-life ordeal of writer and director Mack Lindon, who spent 19 months in jail in Victoria before being found not guilty at a retrial. But while the film purports to be based on Lindon’s personal experience, it appears to rely much more on clichéd prison movies and even more clichéd TV courtroom dramas that bear only a passing resemblance to reality.
Lindon’s innocent, green and boyish McIntyre is sentenced to six years. He’s an obvious target inside, made worse, arguably, by him putting his hair in a little ponytail. But he has a powerful friend: Jimmy Cove (Martin Sacks, in the film’s standout performance), an institutionalised, recidivist armed robber and tough guy who travels in on the same van, and with whom a strange bond is forged.
McIntyre’s nursing background leads him to be given the job of looking after a brain-injured, wheelchair-bound prisoner, Fung Poi (Marty Rhone), and their care for each other provides some touching moments. But it is the relationship between McIntyre and Cove that is much more at the heart of the film. What’s in it for Cove, one has to ask? Sure, there are plenty of such relationships both in prison and prison movies, where generally the stronger of the two gets money, sex, Chocolate Royal biscuits or some other benefit. But Cove continues to seek out the novice McIntyre for none of these (other than his runners); instead, he gets lectured, patronised and preached at by the young upstart. And yet rather than punch him on the nose for his impudence, Cove tolerates it all, comes back for more, re-evaluates his life choices and direction, and even professes his love for the young bloke. In a purely platonic way, it must be said.
As implausible as all that is, the court scenes on the hearing of the appeal are worse. McIntyre’s original barrister prevails upon a Queens Counsel friend, Julie Nile, to take on the case pro bono. Nile (Erin Connor), however, is the least likely QC imaginable - nervous, lacking in composure, highly emotional in her submissions. But she dramatically pounces, Perry Mason-like, on a fatal flaw in the prosecution case and McIntyre walks free… but not immediately - the prison authorities bravely keeping him in for a bonus extra night before letting him go.
“It’s not how many times you fall, but how many you rise,” we are told at the very end, and indeed the themes of Christian forgiveness and rising above adversity are rather overtly woven into the plot. One pusillanimous Prison Officer, who has bullied McIntyre since his arrival, safe in the knowledge that he won’t fight back, even apologises to him when the not guilty verdict is returned. Really?
The script, sadly, is full of holes and would have benefitted from some technical advice on legal process. And the prison is filled, it seems, not with prisoners but a menagerie of characters - tough nuts, Bible bashers, lunatics, publicity junkies, queens and tattoo artists - that misguidedly tick lots of movie-land prison stereotype boxes, but add nothing to the story. Some of the prison scenes were filmed at the Borallon Correctional Centre in Queensland, and at times that seems to be the closest the film gets to reflecting the prison experience.
Rise is sadly a bit of a flop.
Posted on July 19th, 2015 at 1:38 pm. Updated on July 19th, 2015 at 1:42 pm.
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