Rainy Dog (1999)
By: CJ on August 3, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Artsmagic (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0 English Subtitles. 95 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Sho Aikawa, Lianmei Chen, Ming-Jun Mao, Jiangin He and Tomorowo Taguchi
Screenplay: Seigo Inoue
Music: Koji Endo
Country: Japan
AKA: Gokudô kuroshakai
Rainy Dog is Takashi Miike's follow-up to Shinjuku Triad Society, and is also the second film of his 'Black Society Trilogy'. Although less brutal than its predecessor, it's still a very bleak and nihilistic piece with a fair quotient of cold-blooded violence, which seems par for the course as far as Miike's concerned.

The story follows the fortunes of a Japanese gangster, Yuji (Sho Aikawa), who operates on the fringes of the Taiwanese criminal mobs, in the city of Taipei, as a contract killer for hire. He also holds to a strange tradition of never venturing out into the rain, which means he doesn't get out much, considering how rain drenched Taipei is. However, not long into the story, Yuji finds himself given the task of raising the son he never knew he had, when one of his former flames arrives with the child in tow. Not wanting this responsibility, Yuji simply carries on as if the boy doesn't even exist, ignoring the child completely. The boy, Ah Chen, duly follows his disinterested father around from hit to hit, witnessing first-hand what his father does for a living. As the film progresses, Yuji slowly begins to acknowledge Ah Chen as his son, and then seeks to make a safe passage for his son out of Taipei, as he has killers on his tail who want revenge for a murder he committed. As the killers close in on him, Yuji desperately seeks safety for his son and would-be-mother, a hooker who Yuji picks up along the way as a surrogate mother for his son. Will he find a way out? Well, this is Miike we're talking about here, so you can pretty much guarantee a downbeat ending.

Unusually, for Miike, Rainy Dog has very real human element at the centre of its story, and Miike actually manages to get us to care about the central protagonists. The film, whilst having moments of cold-blooded violence, actually has a very heavy sense of despair and sadness about it. Sho Aikawa is excellent as the disaffected Yakuza outcast who slowly finds his emotions switching on, and by the end of the film, despite his violent actions, we are somehow rooting for him, even though he is something of an anti-hero. It lacks the intensity of many other Miike films, but is the better for it, in this instance. Miike wisely roots the story in the human drama that is unfolding and tells the story not only through dialogue, but through the use of startling and haunting imagery – like the shots of gangsters plodding through the rain drenched streets of Taipei. The film is very lyrical and has a kind of beauty about it, whilst alternately contrasted with scenes of brutal and merciless killing. I would say that this is the most interesting and perfectly formed Takashi Miike film I've seen to date, and arguably his best work. Not as controversial as his blood-drenched epic Ichi the Killer or the shocking Audition, Rainy Dog is possibly the better film for making an impact without resorting to controversy.

An impressive feature from Takashi Miike and ably supported by an extremely good cast – highly recommended.
Video
Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1, the image looks very good and free form any print damage or compression artefacts. The colours are vibrant and consistent and the blacks remain solid without digital smearing. The only thing of note is that the image was perhaps a little soft, but detail is still good, and this looks to be how the film was shot. It's not really troublesome, but it's worth pointing out. Aside from that, this is a good solid transfer.
Audio
The disc comes with a DD 2.0 Japanese audio track supported by English subtitles, which are clear and easy to read throughout the film. The audio is perfectly acceptable and reproduces the dialogue, music and FX perfectly, without hiss or audio 'pops'. The music comes over particularly well, which pleased me, as this film sports a fantastic music score by Koji Endo.
Extra Features
There's a handful of extras provided – two on-camera interviews with the inimitable Takashi Miike himself, and one on-camera interview with film editor Yasushi Shimamura. The Miike interviews are interesting in that he talks very candidly about filming outside Japan and what is was like to work in Taiwan. Also to be found are two theatrical trailers, an artwork gallery (which is just the 3 DVD covers from the Black Society Trilogy) and an audio commentary by Japanese film expert Tom Mes. Overall, it's a very nice package.
The Verdict
Not as grim as many of Miike's films, Rainy Dog is still a cruel piece in many ways (as viewers will discover for themselves) and still has an undeniably nihilistic tone to it, but it's interesting for having some humanity about it. However, his very human element of the story somehow makes the cruelty all the crueler. This is a startling film from director Takashi Miike, and one that I unreservedly recommend; though some may not find it to their taste. The long brooding passages of virtual silence may prove not very interesting to some viewers, but this is a film you need to absorb and let wash over you. Allow the imagery and soundscapes of the underbelly of a city in chaos to was over you and carry you away, and you will be able to fully appreciate Miike's work. I liked it very much and for those who've only ever experienced the more extreme works of Miike, I'd recommend seeing this film, and watch a master at work – he is equally capable of restraint as he is of excess, and to his credit. As I say, this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you fancy something a little offbeat, then you could do worse than pick this up for a watch.
Movie Score
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