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Rising Sun

Directed by Philip Kaufman from the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, RISING SUN is a triumph of style over content. Like BLADE RUNNER, the film grafts a fiercely modernist feel onto characters and themes right out of a 1940s film noir--an impressive achievement that more than makes up for a ponderous storyline. Most of the factors deemed anti-Japanese in Crichton's novel have been removed or softened for the film, which revolves around the murder of a young woman at the LA office of a huge Asian corporation. The key players are John Connor (Sean Connery), a police detective whose love of all things Japanese has many colleagues doubting his motives, and Web Smith (Wesley Snipes), Connor's younger, slow-on-the-uptake partner. The murder, it seems, has been recorded on a video disk that has then been electronically adjusted to twist the facts. As Connor and Smith uncover successive layers of digital cover-up, the disk becomes both the fulcrum on which the investigation turns, and a metaphor for the detective process itself. Kaufman gives RISING SUN a brilliant, high-tech-meets-urban-grunge sheen, conjuring extremes of opulence and sleaze and suggesting a moral shadowland where every character is compromised. Connery is in his element as the almost mystically gifted Connor, though Snipes can't make us believe in Smith's stupidity--15 minutes into the film, he's the only one in the theater who still hasn't figured out what's going on.