Rainy Dog (1997)

RainyDogCoverYuji is one of those hitmen who exudes that sort of anti-hero attitude that somehow makes guys who murder other guys for a living seem to be someone we would want to look up to.

Kicked out of his gang, he still does some freelance work. He runs around Taiwan shooting people in his long, white trench coat and sunglasses. He comes home and watches video clips from Gamera movies on his computer. He doesn’t talk much and he has really good hair. He even has one of those quirky superstitions where he refuses to go out in the rain because his grandmother always told him that it was bad luck.

All in all, you’d have to admit that Yuji is one of those carefully constructed movie characters designed to appeal to the young males in the audience who somehow think they can identify with a guy who is nothing like them.

So what happened with this movie that Yuji had me wishing that he would just walk out in the rain and melt already? Um, basically nothing. Normally, you could write off long stretches of boring movies by claiming that it was all character development, but with Yuji, you know everything about him at the beginning and he doesn’t change at all until almost the very end when he smiles and shouts once while riding a scooter with his kid and hooker girlfriend.

I suppose it’s baby steps, but if it took an entire film for a guy to contort his face into what passes for something beyond a disaffected grimace, I probably don’t have the decades left to live that we’ll need for Yuji to move from smiling to doing stuff like going to his kid’s ballgames and taking him on Cub Scout trips. Admittedly, he does hug the kid towards the end of things, but I couldn’t help but think it was a bit of a put on, since little Ah Chen had just saved his daddy’s life.

How is it that the lovable urchin Ah Chen comes into Yuji’s life and turns his world upside down? And by “upside down” I mean that Yuji occasionally notices that Ah Chen is following him around when he goes out on his “jobs.”

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One day, while Yuji is just sitting there at the computer watching Gamera spin around and mixing it up with the that one monster with the triangular head and that other monster whose head resembles a butter knife, some hag rolls into his pad and tells him that she’s tired of being her kid’s mom and that it is now Yuji’s turn to raise him.

She tells him the kid doesn’t talk and then she leaves. Yuji remembers screwing her, but doesn’t know if the kid is his or not so he does what any of us what do in that situation and ignores the kid, leaving him outside to sleep in the rain. I’m sure that a paternity test was probably his second choice.

Eventually Yuji remembers a story about a prisoner who lived in isolation for so long that he began to care for a fly and then when the fly disappeared, the prisoner began to lose his mind. Yuji looks out the window at this shivering kid and announces that Ah Chen is his fly. Err, okay. I’m not sure if that really passes for some sort of maturing, but at least it won’t make Ah Chen’s pneumonia any worse.

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But just because Yuji lets Ah Chen stay in his house, don’t think he’s gone all soft yet. When Ah Chen smiles at his daddy since he’s no longer outside drowning in a downpour all night, Yuji tells him to quit looking at him like a dog would. It sounds harsh to those of us not in the hitman business, but Yuji didn’t get where he is today by grinning like a jack ass. He’s just trying to impart his values on his child and who are we to judge his culture?

Following his speech (and for Yuji, a sentence definitely qualifies as a speech) to Ah Chen about his smiling, Yuji doesn’t speak to the kid for the next hour of the movie. Instead, he just goes about his business, walking around and killing people while Ah Chen struggles to keep up with him.

Yuji’s last job sees him being set up and double-crossed and ends up with him on the run with a bunch of stolen gang money, his hooker and kid in tow. Naturally, this is about the time when Yuji starts to sort of care about his kid and whore girlfriend.

By the time the final scenes play out and Yuji realizes how much he cares for his son, the circumstances are such that you’re forced to wonder whether those feelings are born out of genuine paternal love or just self-preservation.

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This is the second movie in Miike’s trilogy of crime films called The Black Society Trilogy and it’s quite a disappointing follow up to Shinjuku Triad Society. If Miike was illustrating the sheer inhumanity and indifference to life in that first film and by contrast is trying to demonstrate in Rainy Dog the possibility that even those who are most cut off from humanity have the capacity to be changed by love, then he’s failed miserably.

I was never convinced that Yuji was humanized by anything that went on here and since the movie spent most its time just showing this kid out in the rain while Yuji was busy doing other stuff, I didn’t understand what it was that happened with Yuji to make him finally care.

Director Takashi Miike leaves us to wonder if he was making a commentary that in this crazy, mixed-up, crime gang-infested world, we have to find love wherever we can and that even those whose professions require emotional detachment still crave some meaningful human companionship. Or was he saying that there’s nothing more boring than a cool guy saddled with some little snot-nosed punk and whiny prostitute?

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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