Written by: Adam Vaughn | August 4th, 2021
Rising Wolf (Antaine Furlong, 2021) 1 out of 4 stars.
Hoping for a great science-fiction thriller to emerge this summer, I was disappointed to find that director Antaine Furlong’s debut feature film lacked the structure and substance necessary to take its high-concept story down any reasonable path. Rising Wolf, while impressive in its key visual effects, feels entirely confused and disorganized, with a sluggish establishing pace and an endless loop of story points that waffle between repetition and chaos. Leaving far too many unresolved questions by the end, the film never manages to find a solid ground to tell a riveting story.
Rising Wolf begins with protagonist Aria Wolf (Charlotte Best, An American in Texas) trapped in an elevator shaft, unable to contact anyone or save herself. The film doesn’t progress past this plot point for some time. At first, I appreciated the deliberate calm before the storm, as time progresses in a tense, frustrating way for Aria. But director Furlong eventually prolongs this element to its extreme, boring us before we are introduced to any other main characters.
Once the rest of the story comes into play, you would think that things get more intense and intriguing. For a while they do, as we see Aria’s father, Richard (Jonny Pasvolsky, Rabbit), tortured by a Russian syndicate led by a man named Yaroslav (Alex Menglet, The Mule). While all of this is happening, we are bombarded by waves of flashbacks, following a young Aria and her sister Zara as they discover a set of supernatural abilities that the two girls have (which they conveniently forget once they’re older). Filled with dialogue unsettling for two 8-year-olds (writing that would barely pass for two adults in a soap opera), and plot points that have no relevance to the present-day story, these scenes do more to disorient the viewer than build the characters.
What hurts the film the most is that the sci-fi bits are almost entirely in flashback, and for the duration of the film we never truly see Aria’s superpowered potential until the last 15 minutes. At that point, we’ve endured numerous, hyper-repetitive scenes of Aria being dropped and raised back up in the elevator shaft, her father tortured and the dissatisfying outcome of several storylines that circle back to absolutely nothing. While Rising Wolf introduces a fun potential for an entertaining sci-fi experience, the overall result is a film stuck on rudimentary setup and flashbacks, detaching the audience from the main narrative. It’s almost as if director Furlong forgot that the film needs a concrete message and a memorable ending. Rising Wolf has neither.