Rainy Dog

Rainy Dog

Rainy Dog is the second of cult Japanese director, Takashi Miike's 'Triad Society Trilogy', coming after Shinjuku Triad Society (1995) and before Ley Lines (1999), and here is released in a pristine print from Tartan Video's 'Tartan Asia Extreme' line. However, fans of extreme cinema that are more familiar with the director's more hyperbolic works, like Audition (2000) or Ichi the Killer (2001), need to take note: Rainy Dog, while a magnificent film, is quiet and contemplative, with perhaps just enough violence to warrant its 18 certificate. But just because we are into 'extreme cinemas' doesn't preclude our appreciation of great cinema, with or without splatter. Miike filmed Rainy Dog in Taiwan, with almost an entire Taiwanese crew who spoke no Japanese, and this just adds to the overwhelming feeling of alienation the film evokes.

While Shinjuku told of the marginal place ethnic Taiwanese hold in Japanese society at large, using the society of the Yakuza as a microcosm, Rainy Dog reverses this theme. Yuuji (Sho Aikawa) is a down-on-his-luck Yakuza in Taiwan, picking up assassination jobs from one of the local triad bosses. There is another loser Yakuza in Taipei who may or may not hold a contract on Yuuji, but plays cat-and-mouse with him throughout the film. Yuuji's life is further complicated by the sudden appearance of a ten year old boy, whose mother claims is Yuuji's son; she's fed up with looking after the boy, and abandons him with his father. The central plot revolves around one particular hit, which sparks off a gangland war, with Yuuji, his son and a prostitute caught in the middle, while they search for a quiet place where the rain occasionally stops.

While still a violent gangster film, Rainy Dog avoids much of the spectacular action and graphic, bone crunching splatter most of us associate with Miike's films. Instead, although firmly situated within the Yakuza genre, Rainy Dog is more like a Japanese film noir, where characterization and mood overshadow action. Yes, the film feels a bit slow at times, and very little actually 'happens', but what does 'happen' is meaningful and significant for the characters. If his Shinjuku is a primal gangster scream, Rainy Dog is a quiet sigh of a film. Haunting, beautiful, and a must for any serious fan of contemporary Japanese cinema - extreme or otherwise.

Tartan Asia Extreme is well known for its high-quality products, and the DVD release of Rainy Dog is no exception. The video transfer is excellent, with good and clear subtitles. There are not many extras to speak of, apart from the basics one would expect from a Tartan DVD: trailers for other Miike films (that are available from Tartan, obviously), some print notes by Japanese film expert Tom Mes (which truth be told are a bit naff), and the typical star and director filmographies. There is a short, 10-minute, interview with Takashi Miike specifically about Rainy Dog, which is just the right length; it's not remarkable, but professionally put together and a solid inclusion in the package.

Review by Mikel J. Koven

Released by Tartan Asia Extreme
Region 0 PAL
Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1)with Audio in Japanese and Mandarin with English subtitles
Rated 18
Extras :
Star and director filmographies, scene selection, Tom Mes film notes, original theatrical trailer, Takashi Miike interview, Takashi Miike trailer reel.