Pearce is so consistently good in any genre, and he sinks his teeth (get it?) into the role of Reynolds, a character introduced with a string of racial slurs. In his best scene, he gives an impassioned speech about how men used to work the soil and defend the country. Pearce nails a certain kind of miserable villain, a woe-is-me type who blames everyone else for his problems and takes with force anything he thinks some sort of higher power has granted him as a white male. He’s not just racist and violent, he’s kind of pathetic, and Pearce really gets at that aspect of Reynolds, someone who wants to “make America great again” mostly because he knows that the current one has no use for men like him.
Of course, men like Reynolds are threatened by the very existence of an immigrant family in town named Loi, and the first scene centers this conflict between his family and the Lois as the villain spews hatred at the patriarch (Chike Chan). His son Edward (William Gao) is bullied in school and Edward’s mother Yan (Crystal Yu) fights for survival. They end up guardians of the most brooding stranger in cinema in ages named Fallon (Alex Pettyfer), who turns out to be a creature of the night with an old grudge against Reynolds. Pettyfer mopes his way through “Sunrise” with an underwritten character who consists mostly of foreboding glares into the distance and pregnant pauses designed to create tension but really just draw attention to themselves.
“Sunrise” is a film that fails so thoroughly at building momentum that I was startled to realize it was nearing its end. There’s one strong performance here but nothing else to hold onto in a film that never comes together thematically or narratively. (It doesn’t help that the whole thing looks way too great with over-done lighting and a notable lack of the kind of tactile depth this genre flick needs for it to work). It’s a film that has so many ideas that feel half-baked, and so regularly feels like it’s a short script being stretched out into feature length. It’s a movie that literally vamps to get to the closing credits.