Saturday, May 09, 2009

Thoughts on "Rain Fall"

The best thing I can say about Max Mannix's "Rain Fall" is that its acting and direction are a slight notch above the average Japanese commercial thriller. There are no minor celebs in incongruous cameo roles, no shouting-while-crying histrionics and no embarrassingly implausible Japanese FBI agents. Shiina Kippei's English is passable (albeit hardly fluent enough to convincingly portray a Japanese-American), and Gary Oldman and Emoto Akira add their slightly phoned-in gravitas to the proceedings. The only truly inadequate performance is provided by the gorgeous but floundering Hasegawa Kyoko, who displays an inability to evolve past the kind of gaspy staccato line readings and superficial emoting favoured by local television dramas (and to be fair, these days that's about as rare as liver spots on a prime minister).

What's sadly lacking is a script that sustains suspense and gives its characters something to do apart from flapping their gums. Especially its globetrotting assassin hero, who's only required to perform a couple of blink-and-they're-over action scenes without even breaking into a sweat and the rest is all sleepy-eyed yap yap yap. In fact that's all most of the characters do apart from Oldman, who just shouts a lot instead.

Inoffensively competent but fatally anticlimactic, its central flaw is exemplified by the macguffin of a Memory StickTM (it's a Sony Pictures production after all, hence the proudly displayed Vaio logo on Oldman's laptop) containing evidence that could bring down the government. One character inadvertently encapsulates the redundancy of its contents in one line: "How are we supposed to blackmail people if the information they're meant to fear is public knowledge?" Especially when that info could be used to force Japan into becoming... what it pretty much is already. It's little ado about not much really.

That being said, for a film not entirely Japanese but mostly cast and shot in Japan and with obvious designs on the international market, it's no cringeworthy embarrassment. And at least the John Legend song that plays over the end credits doesn't stand out like a turd in a punchbowl as with Oasis in "K-20" or Dani bloody California in "Death Note".

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