2021, NR, 102 min. Directed by Antaine Furlong. Starring Charlotte Best, Jonny Pasvolsky, Susan Prior, Karelina Clarke, Andrew Jack, Lily Stewart, Elsa Cocquerel.
REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., Aug. 13, 2021
Rising Wolf is not the movie you expect it to be. The setup is something close to another single-location, Saw-adjacent white-knuckler, with Aria Wolf (Best) trapped inside a rapidly dropping and rising elevator in a Shanghai high-rise at the behest of Russian baddies that have taken her and her father hostage. On the screens making up one wall of the box, Aria watches as her father gets brutally tortured for information, as she herself is continually, ruthlessly flung from ceiling to floor, abandoned by gravity as her enclosure flies down the shaft of the building. On paper, this is somewhere close to horror.
But writer/director Antaine Furlong and co-writer Kieron Holland have different intentions for this story. With a backstory told through copious flashback sequences alongside an expanding sense of scope as the run time progresses, Rising Wolf turns out to be what is seemingly the hopeful first chapter of a YA-type fantasy series, this apparently being the origin of our titular hero. The (literal) elevator pitch serves as a clever intentional misdirect so that as these larger ambitions come to light, ideally you’ll be impressed by how something so small in scale turns out to be much larger than you initially predicted.
All that is well and good, if only the film itself was in any way capable of pulling off that kind of magic trick. Instead, Furlong’s debut feature often feels awkward and unsure of itself, unable to pull off the tightrope act it’s trying to perform. Though the claustrophobic setting is ultimately meant to act as a vessel through which we learn the personal intricacies of our protagonist, Best is hardly given much of a character to play at all. She tries her hardest and manages to imbue some physical bravado in a role that doesn’t afford her much past getting thrown around the room and crying, while everyone surrounding her delivers ham-fisted dialogue through stilted, strained performances.
This overambitious, underwritten movie also has the temerity to set up a cliffhanger ending, as if it’s remotely completed the basic task of creating a world and characters to carry a film. Instead, it feels like there’s an entire story and endless lore existing right outside the walls of the elevator that we never get to indulge in. Rising Wolf gets so caught up in the idea of a supposed potential franchise that it forgets to make you care about the film you’re currently watching.
Available on VOD now.