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Rainy Dog
cast: Sho Aikawa, Tomorowo Taguchi

director: Takashi Miike

95 minutes (unrated) 1997
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Artsmagic NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Shiraz Rahim
After having watched Takashi Miike's beautiful work Shinjuku, I had high expectations for Rainy Dog, the second instalment in the director's Black Society Trilogy. I found that this new piece was even better than I could possibly have expected. Rainy Dog, although similar to its predecessor in terms of major themes and Miikesque elements, is definitely a much more powerful and beautifully crafted piece.

The story begins in Taipei where Yuji (Sho Aikawa), a former yakuza forced to flee Japan who is now a personal assassin, encounters a woman who presents him with a boy who she claims is his son. Before Yuji can question the woman, she drives away, leaving the young boy, named Ah Chen, standing at Yuji's doorstep. The confused and surprised yakuza continues his life while trying to neglect the poor, young boy, forcing Ah Chen to sit and sleep outside Yuji's house. Ah Chen eventually begins to follow Yuji on the yakuza's daily missions and begins to bond with his supposed 'father'. Around this time, Yuji finally begins to acknowledge the young boy and allow him to stay inside the house while it rains in the city. The plot thickens further as we learn that Yuji is being chased by 'the Pursuer' (played by Tomorowo Taguchi), who's been sent to kill Yuji for whatever crimes forced him to leave Japan in the first place.

Yuji is eventually hired to murder the boss of the city's major gang leader, and as he ventures out to perform his deed of destruction, it begins to rain, forcing the yakuza (who is apparently superstitious about killing in the rain) and Ah Chen to seek shelter in a nearby whorehouse. Ah Chen is forced to sit outside the building (since the owner won't allow children into the whorehouse), sparking the boy's friendship with a soaking wet, stray dog (get the title?) that he sees on the street. During this time, Yuji also makes a new friend named Lily, a young prostitute who has dreams of leaving Taipei.

Yuji, followed by Ah Chen, continues his journey toward the leader he is asked to kill, and, much to his fortune, he succeeds in both killing the gang boss and finding a suitcase of money that the boss was carrying. Yuji immediately takes the suitcase, intending to show it to Lily and ask her to leave Taipei with him on the condition that she takes care of Ah Chen. To further add drama, Yuji becomes a marked man in the city as the gang, understandably upset at the murder of their leader, seek revenge. The remainder of the movie spirals into the connections Lily, Yuji, and Ah Chen form during their escape from the city, bringing in the theme of the importance of family (which, from my experiences watching Miike movies, is one of his favourites). At the same time, of course, Miike adds drama and suspense as it becomes questionable whether or not the three will survive long enough to escape Taipei while being chased by both the city's gang and the Pursuer.

So, Miike again provides a movie that is inspirational, heartfelt, and truly amazing. Since the themes in this piece are exactly like those in Shinjuku, I won't dwell on them, but I think the viewer will find this film to be equally as meaningful and moving as the first part of this trilogy. The only difference between Rainy Dog and some other Miike movies (in particular those in the rest of the Black Society Trilogy) is that this particular movie is more subdued in terms of violence and sexual content. Miike's other works stand out not only because of his themes, fantastic directing, and interesting plots, but also for his trademark violence and gritty sex (the latter of which he usually includes to shed light on his theme of homosexuality), yet Rainy Dog is certainly lacking in both with respect to other Miike works. Still, the content of this piece is certainly so much better than any of the other Miike films I have viewed that its lack of violence and sex is certainly not disappointing and has no effect on the greatness of this film. This is definitely a movie fit for anyone who enjoys watching great films.

In terms of quality, the movie is exactly the same as Shinjuku, and Artsmagic, in my opinion, has released a piece worthy of praise. The sound and picture quality are commendable and definitely enhance the viewing experience. Other than this, there really isn't much to say. If the viewer is familiar with other Artsmagic releases, or has seen the first part of this trilogy, Rainy Dog won't be much different.

Since I'm not too keen on extras, I didn't feel that the lack of them had any hindrance whatsoever on my disposition toward this film, though those who are more devoted to their Miike extras will find this piece much more disappointing than other Miike DVD releases. The extras include stills from the three movies of this trilogy including trailers and biographies on the film's actors. Aside from this, the same people who provided commentaries for Shinjuku return to provide commentaries for this film (though these commentaries aren't quite as interesting as those on Shinjuku). To top this all off, we get two interviews with Miike himself where he discusses his thoughts about moviemaking in general, which, although probably interesting to people just becoming acquainted with the director, weren't quite that exciting.

So, all in all, Miike has produced another classic that I'm proud to add to my list of my favourite movies. With an interesting and captivating plot with traditional and fun Miike twists, Rainy Dog is a piece I would certainly recommend to anyone, Miike fan or not. As for me, I can't wait to start the third film. Will it be even better? With such a great movie as Rainy Dog as its predecessor, we'll just have to wait and see...
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