Rising Sun waters down the more contentious aspects of Michael Crichton’s controversial bestseller about Japanese influence in the United States, while remaining faithful to its mechanical plotting and superficial characterizations.
A thriller spurred by the murder of a white party girl at the opening of a Japanese office tower in Los Angeles, Crichton’s novel ruffled feathers due to its alleged Japan-bashing, its blunt discussion of Japanese mores, aggressive and exclusionary business practices and purportedly racist attitudes.
Lt. Web Smith (Wesley Snipes), a liaison officer with the LAPD, is advised to bring with him a man of both legendary and slightly dubious status within the force, Detective John Connor (Sean Connery), who is so expert on the Japanese that he is suspected of having been co-opted by them.
The cops’ leads point to Japanese playboy Eddie Sakamura (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), who was involved with the dead girl and with her that night. But critical surveillance tape of the murder scene would seem to have been doctored to alter the identities of the people who appear to have been present.
Crichton’s structure tiresomely flip-flops investigative scenes with interludes of the men driving through the wet night as Connor imparts his wisdom to his less experienced partner.
Idea of casting a black actor as Lt. Smith, who was white in the novel, hasn’t altered matters much. Compared to some of his earlier performances, Snipes seems lax and unfocused here. Detective Connor was reputedly written with Connery in mind, and the brawny veteran thesp brings plenty of authoritative, fatherly appeal to the role, issuing sage aphorisms.