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Review © Koch, 2004.

Directed by Takashi Miike, 1997, 95 min. Starring Sho Aikawa, Xian-mei Chen, Ming-jun Gao, and Tomorowo Taguchi.

Takashi Miike is possibly the most prolific director in Japan. As such I've found a large number of his movies unsatisfying. I find it hard to believe you can push out as many movies as this guy does without rushing a few. That being said, there are a fair few diamonds in amongst the rough, and when Miike's on form, the results can often be spectacular. One thing I will give the guy consistently though, I never know what to expect when I sit down to watch one of his movies, and this is a good thing. Bring on the unpredictability!

Rainy Dog is the middle movie in Miike's Yakuza trilogy Black Society. The opener, Shinjuku Triad Society is generally viewed as the piece with most of the typical Miike characteristics - violence, mostly - while the third, Ley Lines, is supposed to blend the brutality of the first installment with the strong dramatic characterisations of this second episode.

Synopsis

Yuji (Sho Aikawa) is a Yakuza who's down on his luck. As well as having just been kicked out of his gang and had his girlfriend stolen (in the space of one phone message!), an old one night stand has recently appeared out of the blue with a little boy. She informs Yuji that the child is his son, and that it's now his turn to take care of him, at which point she promptly disappears. Stranded on the rain-soaked streets of Taipei, Yuji earns a living as a hitman, doing jobs for his boss Mr Ke. His new charge Ah-Chen (it's never known for certain if the boy is his son or not) is left to follow Yuji around as he stalks his targets. Feeding himself out of rubbish bins and sleeping under cardboard. Yuji largely ignores the child, and won't even let him into his house to begin with.

Also on Yuji's case is his crazy stalker (played with manic intensity by Tomorowo Taguchi). It's never explained whether the character is a rival gang member, another hitman, or possibly some Japanese detective - in fact virtually nothing is explained about the character besides the fact that he is obsessed with capturing Yuji. Not permitted to return to Japan until his job is done, he spends the nights sleeping rough on Taipei's sodden streets, waiting to take his target. Whilst on a job, Yuji escapes the rain by visiting the local brothel (and why not). There he purchases the company of a young prostitute by the name of Lily (Xian-mei Chen). Finding out about her desire to leave Taipei and start a new life for herself, Yuji gives her the money to go, on the condition that she take his child with her. This plan soon goes awry however, when Yuji assassinates the boss of a local Triad gang. The new boss of the gang seeks to exact revenge, not only on Yuji, but also his new makeshift family.

The three of them go into hiding on a beach. Yuji makes a telephone call to Ke to see if he can get them any help, but is left unsure as to whether he can trust his old boss. With the Triads and Taguchi's crazy man closing in, Yuji is fast running out of options.

Rainy Dog is the middle part of Miike's Black Society Trilogy (aka the Shinjuku Triad Trilogy) While I must confess to not having seen Shinjuku Triad Society, the first part, I had no trouble understanding the plot of this movie - Indeed it is its own film with its own plot and characters. It's often much the same with Asian sequels - they're thematically linked (in this case the interaction between Japanese Yakuza and Chinese triad gangs). As such it makes pleasant viewing on its own merits. This movie serves as a great example of what Miike is capable of when he's not obsessed with trying to shock his audience. There's no over-the-top violence, or acts of sexual deviancy, merely a decently written story, with good performances from the cast. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film (for me at least) was the pacing. When I watch a Miike film, I'm used to it being of one of two extremes. Either relentlessly fast (see Dead or Alive), or painfully slow (see Audition). Rainy Dog falls somewhere in the middle, perhaps leaning slightly toward the slow end of the scale. The gunfights are few and far between, and are generally over as soon as they start, but you soon learn that this is a character driven movie. The action takes a backseat here.

The dark, wet streets of Taipei are shot with an intentional lack of colour, helping to capture the drab atmosphere of being caught in a constant downpour.

If I do have any major gripes with the film, it's possibly that I don't feel there was quite enough depth added to the main character. I've seen the emotionless, coldy-efficient killer type once too often already (he's even wears a trenchcoat and sunglasses for crying out loud!). That being said however, as the movie progressed; I did find myself caring for his wayward little family and was rooting for them to make it out alive. The plot itself is cleverly put together, and has a few pleasant twists at the end. The characters of Lily and Chen are easy to sympathize with and help create a counterbalance to the coldness of the lead character and help maintain the human element to the story.

I would probably go so far as to say this is one of my favourite Miike films. Fans of Ichi the Killer et all might find the movie a little bit slow, but it's well worth sticking with it. Rainy Dog is a well-crafted gangster thriller with intelligence and depth.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:

Entertainment Value - 8/10
Sex – Bra and panties/10
Violence – 3/10
Rain – gallons/10
Taguchi's insanity level – TAIPEIIII!!! /10
Films in a Similar Style: Shinjuku Triad Society, Ley Lines, Brother, Oldboy, Sonatine, Ichi The Killer

*** Recommended! ***

This film is released by Artsmagic.

Rainy Dog Wallpaper
please note: the actual paper does not have the Snowblood Apple logo on it.

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2004

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Miike Takashi
Sho Aikawa
Tomorowo Taguchi


Links

http://www.artsmagicdvd.com/ - Rainy Dog is available direct on Region 1 from Artsmagic, who very kindly provided us with the screener copy used for this review. There's also a specific page for the movie here: http://www.artsmagicdvd.com/rainydog/
http://www.gotterdammerung.org/film/reviews/r/rainy-dog.html - a very long and indepth review at Gotterdammerung, with lots of pictures
http://www.hkcinema.co.uk/reviewsdvdrainydog.htm - a short but succinct review at HK Cinema
http://www.baal-peor.gq.nu/fuq/ssv/ss_black_society_2_04.html - Screaming Stoner Video's take on the movie, with plenty of images
http://www.dvd.reviewer.co.uk/reviews/review.asp?Index=4026&User=31045 - a good review, with some useful information about the print and soundtrack
http://www.thespinningimage.co.uk/cultfilms/displaycultfilm.asp?reviewid=929 - The Spinning Image, however, weren't too keen - if you fancy reading an opposing view, take a look at their page
http://dvdmaniacs.net/Reviews/A-D/black_society_trilogy.html
- nice page summing up all three movies in the Black Society Trilogy

this review (c) Koch, 2004. all other text and webdesign (c) 2002, 2003, 2004 M. Apple Collingridge, A. Collingridge, Larry D Burns, Koch. All characters, situations and images remain the property of their respective owners. The text and webdesign of this site may not be copied, reproduced, mirrored, printed commercially or ripped off in any other way. Do not hotlink directly to images hosted on this site.