A down on his luck Yakuza, shadowed by an unhinged cop and a vengeful gangster, finds solace in a make-shift family in this, the second installment of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society, Raint Dog, Ley Lines)
Unrelated in all but theme and tone, Miike’s central work in his unapologetically downbeat trilogy sees criminal figure, Yuji (Sho Aikawa), play out his own story in a similarly gritty style to that of its predecessor, Shinjuku: Triad Society. Set this time in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, Rainy Dog focuses once more on a harsh and de-glamourised criminal underworld existing uncomfortably but firmly in the tips and veins of modern society. Though less kinetic and more dramatically involving than the first film, Rainy Dog shares its hopelessly brutal melancholy in a typically candid portrait of an unsavoury, and frankly depressing, underworld existence.
It never rains but it pours for unlucky protagonist Yuji. Like a fish out of water, he survives by butchering and lives by killing in this dismal portrayal of urban realism. With the same relentlessly downbeat tone as Shinjuku, Miike rains almost constant tropical downpours on our ill-fated hero, adding yet more drab tones to his grim mix. Whilst, like Shinjuku, Rainy Dog looks at a sense of belonging, the focus on drama rather than action sees the theme of fulfillment come more to the fore. With a peculiar tone of something and nothing, Miike makes serious and troubling issues blend into the background of each characters lonely quest for almost attainable happiness derived from simple existence and interaction. In his typical bucking of generic trends, Miike makes a strange success of playing down the stronger issues of sex and violence and instead opts to use these as a way of drawing out the underlying emotional issues for these deeply unhappy individuals. Just as the violence is strong, quick and matter of fact, the sex is devoid of any emotion or even lust and is born from a deeper need for a fulfillment on an entirely different plane. In a film so bleak in its entirety it is this concern which is at its core; characters who are constantly striving to accomplish something so seemingly simple but without really knowing what that is or how to obtain it.
Where Shinjuku and Rainy Dog do share some similarities in theme and tone (the grim realism of a life you’d never wish for, the drab hues, the issues of cultural disengagement) Miike’s directorial style differs. Where the former contains his trademark frantic editing as a perfect showcase for the fast-paced violence and hectic chase sequences of a life on the run, the latter opts to let the unremitting rain form the structure for this human drama. With almost imperceptible emotional changes, the three leads form the gently touching bonds of lost souls in limbo, searching within each other for some crutch of stability on which to base a semblance of happiness. Drawn inexplicably to each others restless search, the dysfunctional trio of Yuji, his recently acquired mute son Ah Chen (played with brilliant proof that an understated performance can speak louder than words) and prostitute Lily (Xian-Mai Chen) make an ill-fated bid for their own version of happiness in Miike’s strangely rewarding if harrowing presentation of the innate misery in human nature.
Another gruelling installment in Takashi Miike's excellent but troubling and loosley linked trilogy. Powerful and drenched with the sadness of de-sensitisation, this is about as un-Hollywood as the crime genre gets. Another honestly accomplished