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Gavin Schmitt

Blu-ray Review: "Rainy Dog" (1997)

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A Japanese assassin (Show Aikawa) stranded in Taiwan must take work from a local crime boss to make ends meet, when suddenly a woman from his past delivers a son to him. In a broad sense, the narrative follows in the tradition of Kenji Misumi's "Lone Wolf and Cub" (1972), as well as Luc Besson's "The Professional" (1994), which had a strong influence on Miike. In all three, a much-too-young child follows in the footsteps of a killer.

Show Aikawa, who also appears in Miike's "Ley Lines" (1999), may be best known to American audiences for his role in "Pulse" (2001). He is given the full weight of this film. Unlike Miike's earlier film "Shinjuku Triad Society", this is really a one man show, and Aikawa excels.

Also unlike the earlier film of the so-called Black Society Trilogy, this is a more "subdued" story, with a slower pace. We have the grit of assassins and prostitutes that you might expect from a noir or crime story. But the excessive, over-the-top violence that Miike is known for is all but absent here. What remains constant between the two is that sense of moral ambiguity. The depravity is not as strong, but the lines are just as blurry.

A film scholar could write a lengthy discourse on the symbolism in "Rainy Dog", especially on the title and the appearance of "dog themes". There is, of course, a literal dog out in the rain, but there is much more -- one character marks his territory as a dog would, there are instances of Chinese-Japanese "mutts". Even the idea of a professional killer could be seen as parallel with a hunting dog, doing his master's bidding.

The film had previously been released under the "Asia Extreme" banner, which was likely misleading for some consumers. For their Blu-ray, Arrow Video has Miike expert Tom Mes provide an all-new commentary (which is better than his commentary on "Shinjuku). Also, "Rainy Dog" gets bonus points for containing a nice nod to "Gamera".

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