Kippei Shiina, Gary Oldman, Kyoko Hasagawa, Akira Emoto, Misa Shimizu, Takumi Bando
US DVD: 25 May 2010
I know, I know, the main character is named John Rain, and they called the movie Rain Fall. I’m with you on that one, I groaned when I made that connection. At least the protagonist isn’t named Rainn, or Rayne, that would have been even worse. However, it isn’t the filmmaker’s fault, it is all Barry Eisler’s fault. He wrote the book the movie is based on, and three others about Rain, which all feature the word Rain prominently in the title. So the title is his doing, take it up with him.
While the name is unfortunate, the premise sounds promising: An ex-Special Forces operative turned assassin who specializes in making his target’s deaths seem like natural occurrences, has to protect the daughter of a man he just killed, and manages to fall in love along the way. It isn’t a terribly original basis for a movie, but I’ve watched and enjoyed things way more questionable. Throw Gary Oldman into the mix, and there’s some definite potential, here.
Kippei Shiina plays Rain, a half-Japanese, American-born hit man. He’s so good that he takes out a corrupt Japanese bureaucrat on a crowded Tokyo subway with dozens of witnesses, and no one suspects the death was anything but a heart attack. In the just-how-badass-is-this-guy moment, a moment that occurs in pretty much every Steven Seagal movie you’ll ever see, William Holtzer (Oldman), a CIA man, says of Rain’s abilities, “There is nothing he doesn’t know.”
As it turns out, Rain’s latest target was about to kick the bucket due to lung cancer, wanted to make amends for a life of corruption and general sleaze, and was about to expose all sorts of illegal hijinks and monkeyshines to the press. He had a flash drive full of information about crooked public construction projects that he and his compatriots skimmed money from, like unnecessary roads and bridges to nowhere.
Everyone wants this guy’s flash drive. Holtzer and the CIA want it to blackmail the entire nation of Japan into buying cheap American rice, the Yakuza wants it because it implicates them in dirty dealings, and the press wants it to blow the lid off of the whole thing. Of course, people are going to use the dead man’s family to get to the information. Rain takes a liking to the dead man’s jazz pianist daughter, Midori (Kyoko Hasagawa, Three Extremes), and protects her.
Rain Fall is set up to be a suspenseful thriller, but more than actually do the heavy lifting involved in building suspense, writer/director Max Mannix (Tokyo Sonata) relies on all of the trappings that usually add to the feel of such a movie. Just because taut, driving music accompanies shots of someone walking briskly down the sidewalk looking over his shoulder, doesn’t mean there is tension. Throwing in some jittery camera work and quick edits doesn’t create suspense—such tricks are nothing more than empty posturing. Clearly, the filmmaker is trying to force a story element that is just not there.
Somewhere around the 70-minute mark, this changes. Up until then you don’t know Rain at all. You know things about him that people read out of a file, but nothing more. The first hour of the story is set up so that knowledge of Rain, the man, isn’t really necessary. The narrative thrust of the story gets lost in superfluous subplots, like a bitter, old-school cop, and in scenes that repeat information that we already know, are too long to begin with, and fail to provide anything new. Sigh. There doesn’t need to be another scene of Holtzer in a control room watching Rain on a bank of monitors.
There is room for such digressions and departures in a book, but there is not enough space in this movie to do them all justice. If Mannix had cut 15- or 20-minutes out of the first hour, which would be easy to do without damaging the film as a whole, the pace would match the atmosphere and the flow of the story would even out. Anyways… after the initial hour you learn something about Rain and Midori and you start to actually care about them. Finally, the tension and suspense that the filmmakers spent so much time trying to establish, is actually there.
Don’t be fooled by the descriptions, Rain Fall is not an action movie. There are a couple of brief fights, but that is about it. There is no running or jumping or car chases. All of the pursuits are slow and on foot. That is not to say that there is no suspense, I just want to make it clear that you shouldn’t pop in this DVD expecting an over the top action extravaganza.
Despite not being an action movie, Rain Fall really, really, really wants to be one of the Bourne movies. The aesthetic is completely derivative of those films. Everything from the colors, to the framings, to the way they use flashbacks, to the camera work, is totally ripped off. The camera never stops moving. The frame never remains static for more than a few seconds. Even in quiet moments the camera is always pulling, panning, tracking, or zooming. The effect is quite dizzying at first.
As critical as this all sounds, there are good moments in the film One of my favorites is the scene where Rain schools Midori on how to stay alive and free, telling her to keep moving, and never establish a pattern by doing things like walking down the same street, or going to the same convenience store more than once. This is the first real moment where you get to know the characters themselves, not just their dossiers.Like I said, though, to get to the good stuff you have to wait through the first hour or so of the movie, where the story is unfocused, the characters are cardboard flat, and the tension is forced upon you instead of earned.
The DVD doesn’t come with much in the way of extras. There’s the original trailer, and interviews with the main players, Mannix, Oldman, Shiina, and Hasegawa, but they’re short and bland. Hasegawa’s interview is two- and a half-minutes long, and Oldman’s, a hair over two-minutes, consists of only two questions, answered.
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