with Show Aikawa, Li-Wei Chang, Shih Chang
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Seigo Inoue
(Arts Magic DVD)
by Chad Van Wagner
Takeshi Miike has made too many films to have a “typical” style. Which isn’t to say that mentioning his name around Japanese film geeks won’t summon a very clear picture: Hyper violent, completely insane, spastic… you get the idea. While he’s known in the West for films that tend to go to the surreal side of behind-closed-doors perversity, his bread and butter is the Yakuza film.
But even within the hoary cliches of the Japanese gangster film, Miike consistently surprises. Rainy Dog, despite a promisingly typical setup (contract killer on the lam in a strange land), is not what you think. Particularly since it’s part of the Black Society Trilogy, which also includes the insanely violent Shinjiku Triad Society.
A subtle tale of almost accidental redemption and warped integrity, Rainy Dog is not the place to get your sex and violence fix. This one is, believe it or not, thoughtful, and almost sad. Yuji (our Japanese hero) is exiled to Taiwan (why, we’re never told). The only “friend” he has is the only other Japanese person he knows, a homeless nutbag who has sworn to kill him (played by Tetsuo the Iron Man himself, Tomorrow Taguchi). Thing is, in a society as racially sensitive as Taiwan’s, all these two men really have is each other. So, despite the whole “I want to kill you” thing, they hang out occasionally.
Then, things get complicated. Throw in Yuji’s “son” (we never find out for sure), a prostitute, and a hit gone wrong, and suddenly you have a very, very lonely man on the lam. But, again, this isn’t about sex and violence, it’s about isolation, and how it can wake up the morality in an amoral scumbag. The hyper-perverse takes a back seat to mood, and, against all odds, Miike makes it work.
Fans of the blood and guts might feel cheated, since Rainy Dog doesn’t say much more about the human condition. Granted, Miike has shown that he can say what he says here WITH arterial spray, but man does not live on bread alone.