Review: Films Inspired By Japan – Rising Sun (1993)

Sean Connery is of course no stranger to Japanese culture having appeared as James Bond in ‘You Only Live Twice‘ (1967) and here, in this crime film, he portrays a  Japanese specialist working alongside Wesley Snipes to find out who murdered a professional escort after what appeared to be a violent sexual encounter.

This early 90’s film is the one which gave me the idea to expand the ‘set in Japan’ series to ‘inspired by Japan’ so that this kind of movie could be included. It is littered with random Japanese words in the middle of sentences and other such Japanese proverbs and business customs. There’s even a kind of sex scene where a Japanese guy eats sushi  off a naked woman’s body and drinks sake from another girls nipples after she dipped them into the glass!


What is more laughable than that is the name of Connery’s character. John Connor is not a funny name of course but it is now so famously linked with the Terminator franchise. At the time though, ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day‘ (1991) had only been around for about half a year when the ‘Rising Sun‘ novel came out. This was author Michael Crichton’s follow-up to his hugely successful ‘Jurassic Park‘ (1990) which was presumably in the works before the James Cameron directed movie came out. I seem to remember two movies came out in 2010 with Roy Miller the main character in both ‘Green Zone‘ and ‘Knight And Day‘ but I digress!

Rising Sun‘ is a high-tech story for its time and surveillance cameras are at the heart of this 125 minute crime drama. Japanese office politics is a central theme as indeed it was for ‘Gung Ho‘ (1986) a few years earlier. Connor is brought in to assist Snipes’ character as he’s a bit of an expert on Japan and all too often he can be heard smugly giving out snippets about Japanese thinking and how things are done in the land of the rising sun.

Connor imparts all kind of cryptic proverbs and wisdom on his partner such as criminals expecting to be caught in Japan where the conviction rate is 90% compared to around 17.5% in the States. He also tells us that Japanese companies like to film their workers to improve efficiency and the Japanese say fix the problem not the blame. You’re never too far away from hearing him deliver such lines as he interacts smoothly with the staff at the Nakamoto Corporation and he even plays the out-of-control gaijin at one point to prevent someone else from losing face and to thus advance the police investigation and get a favour in return. It’s all deep stuff!

The murder of a woman whilst having sex in a Japanese corporation building brings our two protagonists together and all seems to be going quite well as they try to figure out who did it. This is where Tia Carrera comes in as she plays some kind of video analysis expert who is half Japanese. Due to developments in both the economy and technology, this film does seem somewhat dated as Japan is less powerful and video manipulation is almost something taken for granted nowadays. Having said that, I did find how the CCTV footage scenes had been doctored were the most intriguing parts of the movie. As they work to solve the case they realize that not everything is what it seems and that if something looks too good to be true then it’s invariably not.

Now I’ve not read the book so can’t compare the two. By all accounts the film follows the book fairly closely although Snipes’ character name was changed. There have of course been countless number of cop duo films in the past and people have said this is your typical hostile cop partners one but I dont think thats so true. Sure, he does portray the formulaic less intelligent sidekick with not too much respect for rules but he’s far from a comedy character and he does have some human qualities. Also, there’s not the usual antagonism which such partners in crime often fall into before their hostility turns to mutual respect.

The movie shows the seediness of power and corruption with Harvey Keitel’s character a good example of that in what I felt was a slightly wasted support role for such an actor. His wisdom is certainly no match for Connor’s as he calls the “little guys” perversion freaks who, having been crammed into Tokyo subways working for big companies, go to the U.S. and are suddenly rich and free and want to “f*** a Rose Bowl Queen!”

The script is a bit messy at times and and there are some secondary story lines which don’t really go anywhere but ‘Rising Sun‘ is a fairly solid thriller overall. The pacing is reasonable and as ever this film is recommended to anyone with an interest in Japan or Japanese culture. Despite some scenes of long heavy dialogue, it’s rarely boring. A good film but not a great one.

TF Rating 7/10 

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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