Although nominally the middle part of Takashi Miike's Shinjuku "Black Society" or "Triad Society" trilogy, Rainy Dog it is only tangentially related to the other two films, so really a completely stand-alone film, & one of Miike's finest gangster films.
Miike set this film in Taiwan & shot it on location with a Taiwanese film crew. The language barrier & cultural differences between Taiwan & Japan forced on Miike a different working method than usual, as he states very strongly in the DVD interview. He largely trusted his film crew to do the work right, & hooboy did they. Rainy Dog definitely has a different tone than most of Miike's films, a more chivalrous tone than in his psychotic gangster epics, though he is not entirely a stranger to chivalrous yakuza, again revealing a bit of the sensitive streak to Yakuza Demon (2004).
Sho Aikawa stars as the melancholy banished yakuza Yuuji who has gone to Taipei to get away from becoming himself the victim of a vendetta hit. He is working as an assassin for an oily Chinese gang boss who keeps telling Yuuji "you are like my son" though Yuuji is no more fooled than we are: this guy could easily turn on Yuuji with or without a reason.
Our quiet hero obviously has some previous experience in the city, as a young woman appears one day & drops off a mute boy, saying, "I raised him until now! Now it's your turn!" She then flees weeping, & we never quite find out why she abandoned her kid to such a violent appalling foreign gangster.
Yuuji only vaguely remembered having intercourse with the woman, can't remember her name, so can't take the boy back to her. He barely takes care of the child, but doesn't stop him from tagging along behind as his possible-father from place to place. So the kid sleeps in an alley with a dog while Yuuji spends a comfy night with a hooker, & he stands in the background as witness to his maybe-father assassinates his boss's enemies.
The humanizing of Yuuji is slow & his appalling behavior does not change swiftly. But a streak of humanity rises up in him & he becomes a bit like Outlaw Josey Wales ending up with a family, the boy plus a young net-nurd hooker who wants out of the sex trade).
His career as an assassin sours when the Chinese boss hires another assassin to do in Yuuji, plus there's a yakuza killer from Japan stalking him. Plenty of violence erupts as a result, & there is no shortage of action, but it takes on entirely a different feeling since Yuuji is not the typical Miike psychotic as seen in Ichi the Killer (2001). This is a man regaining his humanity even as he kills.
The photographic style is film noirish, & scene after scene, it is almost perpetually raining, a simple bit of symbolism, but powerful. The conclusion is almost old-fashioned Hollywood in that a really bad murderous person seeking redemption pretty much always has to find it by means of the ultimate sacrifice. The final scenes are absolutely fantastic in the way they mix emotional intensity with violent intensity. Rainy Dog is truly a rarity, an artful sensitive film full of horrific brutality.
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