LAZARUS RISING (2015) – Indie Film Review

In the movies, it’s usually a bad thing for a stone killer when he falls hard for a woman. In indie actor-writer-director John Depew‘s LAZARUS RISING (2015), mob hitman Mike Fitzpatrick (Mike Pfaff) gets a shot to rise again, like the Biblical Lazarus. But psychopathic contract killer Mr. Gray (Adoni Maropis) stands in his way. Can Mike focus and realize the hope of freedom that he and his lover Emma (Devon Ogden) share?

LAZARUS RISING is the latest project of Wild Beagle Productions, a Massachusetts production company that previously produced 27 DOWN (2009), CO2 (2010), and THE FINAL SHIFT (2012). Depew has helmed all of Wild Beagle’s releases so far and was involved with the writing of the first three. LAZARUS RISING’s screenplay was written by Rufus Chaffee, whose previous credits include writing and directing horror-thriller THE MUSE (2014).

The actioner stars Mike Pfaff (THE MUSE, 2014) as Mike Fitzpatrick, a mob hitman who has managed his tumultuous but successful career as a killer by keeping his personal and professional lives separate. This situation is turned upside down when his smart, sexy girlfriend, political operative Emma (Devon Ogden), ends up as a “mark” on his dispatcher’s (mid-level mobster Dallen [Sal Rendino]) hit list.

When Mike tries to protect Emma, he’s forced to go rogue. With the help of his brilliant yet drug-addicted brother Sean (Sean Carmichael), he must battle the psychopathic Mr. Gray (Adoni Maropis), a contract killer who’s called in by Dallen’s mob boss (Bobby Kenney) to clean up the mess. Mike tries to “get clear” so that he and Emma can start a new life together, but the stakes are higher than he knows. The reelection of Emma’s former boss, corrupt Senator James Connelly (Eric Roberts), hangs in the balance.

LAZARUS RISING is as professionally done as any big-budget Hollywood film of the same genre. The cinematography (Douglas Gordon), film editing (Spencer Cohen) and original musical score (Kenneth HamptonDexter Njoku, and Solodeep) are particularly good.

Importantly here, the fight choreography and special effects are convincing. In a film about professional assassins, the viewer expects a lot of authentically-staged physical mayhem and gunplay (especially head shots). This film delivers, not unlike the recent, bigger-budget JOHN WICK (2014), starring Keanu Reeves. While Mike Pfaff does not (yet) have Reeves’ starpower, he and his fellow cast members (particularly Maropis and Megan Le, who plays Mike’s partner, Angelica) deliver the goods, creating a convincing underworld milieu.

In this world, Maropis’ character, Mr. Gray, is a standout. Although he’s erratic and psychopathic, he lives by a unique set of principles that makes him a “code anti-hero” of sorts. One of these macabre rules figures heavily in the outcome of the film’s story.

LAZARUS RISING is an official selection of the 2015 Action On Film Festival, which will be held from Sept. 17th thru Sept 27th in Monrovia, CA. The film has been nominated for several festival awards, including BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Eric Roberts), BEST BREAKOUT ACTION STAR (Mike Pfaff), and BEST ACTION FILM. The festival screening for LAZARUS RISING will be on September 22nd at 7:00 PM at the KIRKORIAN PREMIERE THEATER at 410 S. Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016.

If you can’t make it to the premiere in Monrovia, there will undoubtedly be more opportunities to see this well-done indie film. Follow LAZARUS RISING on its website, IMDb, and Facebook for more information about future showings.

LOUD GREEN BIRD provided this review in exchange for access to an online screener of the film reviewed. No financial considerations were involved.