18 – 95mins – 1997
Two years after his theatrical debut with the ultra-icky shock-fest Shinjuku Triad Society, Takashi Miike returned to his thematically-connected Black Society Trilogy with this precipitation-lashed middle segment, shot entirely in a washed-out Taiwan and with star Tomorowo Taguchi returning, albeit in a new and unrelated antagonist role.
“A dismissed foot soldier of the underworld… the lowest of the low.”
Yuji (Show Aikawa) is a yakuza member exiled from his syndicate. Finding work as a hitman, his less-than-upstanding lifestyle is further complicated when he is lumbered with the care of a mute son he never knew he had. Ignored and left to fend for himself, the loveless boy trails after his deplorable father, witnessing more than any child should. “What a fucking mess,” indeed.
When the lawyer brother of Yuji’s latest victim (Taguchi) offers a reward for a revenge attack on his sibling’s killer, Yuji, his little one and Lily (Xianmei Chen), a prostitute Yuji has developed an unconventional live-in relationship with, must go on the run, cultivating a familial rapport as they evade all those who have betrayed them for a lucrative payday.
With a street stabbing before the title card, Rainy Dog is still deserving of its adults-only certificate, but Gokudô kuroshakai (to give it its Japanese title) is far less gratuitous than its predecessor. At one point, a man pissing in public has his penis censored by a squiggly blue scrawl! Consequently, the film’s impact is more powerful for showing less, even if the plot – which may or may not have inspired Clive Owen actioner Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) – does drag a little in places and the story-proper takes a surprisingly long time to kick into gear.
With the poor shivering kid essentially rendered homeless, sleeping rough, eating from bins and susceptible to hyperthermia while his dad is getting his rocks off with a hooker and ambivalently gunning down targets in restaurants, it’s far from perfect and far from a paradigm of virtue, but beneath the smut and shame of this Black Society there is a well-hidden heart to the characters and a purpose to the events.
Clearly the eight(!!) films Miike directed in the twenty-four months between his theatrical trilogy’s first two instalments helped him to rain in his excessive proclivities and step up his art for this much-improved Dog. Even the picture quality is noticeably better on this new Arrow Video remaster. After struggling through Society, my anticipation for 1999’s boxset concluder Ley Lines was elevated exponentially. Review to follow…
CR@B’s Claw Score: