Rainy Dog

Rainy Dog is the second instalment in Takashi Miike´s Black Society trilogy. The tale of Yuji, a quiet contract killer on the fringes of the Taiwanese criminal underworld, this is a somewhat depressing film about alienation played out in the constant rain of Taipei.

It is a slow and brooding film which opens with a lonely Yuji sitting in his ramshackle apartment. An old girlfriend of his turns up unexpectedly and dumps his son on him before speeding away. The young boy seems to be incapable of speech and Yuji has no room in his isolated existence for anyone else. He continues his work in the field of murder all but ignoring his son Ah Chen, who tags along behind his father at a safe distance.

Yuji played by Sho Aikawa

Yuji proves to be an effective killer, apparently devoid of emotions or connections to the world around him. As the film progresses he gradually comes to care for his son despite himself. His boss sends him to kill a rival named Ku-Piching and in doing so Yuji sparks an angry reaction from the man´s relatives who will stop at nothing to hunt him down. He flees with the mute Ah Chen and a prostitute named Lily in tow.

The film has a number of twists and the unlikely trio seem to feed off a common need for some kind of bond. Yuji´s boss is quick to sell him out and so their potential happiness is short-lived. The brother of Ku-Piching is determined to see them all dead and he is not the only one as another mysterious Japanese man is thrown into the mix, also intent on hunting Yuji down. The action builds to a violent and gripping climax which is predictably far from heart-warming.

Takashi Miike is on form as usual, painting a dreary and unrelenting picture of loneliness brightened somewhat by a faint glimmer of hope that things could turn out all right. The quiet brooding mood is accentuated by the constant rain and general deprivation of the city which is reflected in the silence of Yuji and his son. The direction is typically excellent with several beautiful shots and a range of interesting and realistic backdrops.

This is far slower than you may expect from a Takashi Miike film. The violence is sparse, sudden and completely without passion. There is little in the way of dialogue and virtually none of the black humour which generally permeates his films. The hapless and pointless existence of Yuji is given meaning by the arrival of his son and to a lesser extent the addition of Lily to their strange dysfunctional family. It is tough not to sympathise with the poor young kid Ah Chen as it is difficult to sympathise with the cold Yuji.

Lily the prostitute he picks up along the way

The film comes across as a subtle character study and it is testament to the excellent direction and the quality acting that your interest is held throughout. The plot is very straightforward and quite similar to Leon but Takashi Miike´s approach is completely different to that of Luc Besson and once again he reveals his gift for developing something fresh and unique from cliched material.

The actors are mostly Taiwanese and they do a tremendous job of creating believable characters. Two Japanese favourites of Miike make an appearance, Sho Aikawa plays Yuji and he turns in a very nice performance without the usual flamboyant facial expressions and movements. Tomorowo Taguchi has a small role as the mysterious guy hunting him and he is more recognisably over the top in his portrayal.

The ending is strangely beautiful and shot like most of the movie in the pouring rain. It leaves you with a deep feeling of melancholy. This is a very different film from the first part of the trilogy, Shinjuku Triad Society, and it gives you some idea of Miike´s range as a director. Unpredictable, thoughtful and ultimately rather sad this is still a gentler and more straightforward film than its predecessor and well worth spending an hour and half on.

You can find more info on this film and see the trailer here - Artsmagic for Japanese Films

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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