Rainy Dog
(Gokudo Kuroshakai) (1997)
Directed by Takashi Miike

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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A woman abandons a boy with Yuji, a Japanese hitman working for a Chinese mobster in Taipei, claiming he is the child's father. Though at first reluctant to acknowledge the boy, Yuji grows fond of him, and of a local prostitute, and takes them both with him when he flees Taipei after having run afoul of his employers.

Takashi Miike's Rainy Dog is a dark, sorrowful tale, generally well told, but burdened with a number of flaws.

Irrespective of these faults, Miike does, nonetheless, successfully bring out the isolation and unhappiness in which Yuji and those around him are submerged. Drenching their dismal world with perpetual rain, he fills the movie with a constant sense of sorrowful gloom which reflects the despair and wretchedness of all his characters. The young prostitute with whom Yuji becomes involved is, for instance, a terribly sad individual whose miseries the moviegoer is made to experience with a real poignancy. She is depicted as desiring more from life than what she has, and her unhappiness, desperation, and inability to change her situation all evoke sympathy for her in the viewer. Yuji too is an interesting and affecting person. Although he is shown as developing feelings for both the boy and the prostitute, he is never able to escape his own nature. He is a brutal man, alienated from those around him, and, despite his affection for the boy and the woman, is unable to change. His impotence, his being trapped by his own limitations, makes Yuji as sympathetic a character as are his companions, and the most intriguing in the film.

Rainy Dog does, however, include a number of flaws that detract from its quality. Several threads introduced into the narrative are not satisfactorily developed, such as Yuji's relationship with a lawyer who desires to kill him. Many scenes are so dark it is difficult for the viewer to discern what is occurring, and, visually, Rainy Dog is never distinctive, although Miike is successful at evoking a sense of morose dreariness and hopelessness.

While not among Miike's best, Rainy Dog is still a genuinely engaging and affecting film that is well worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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