Lionsgate // 2009 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 25th, 2010
The most lethal assassin has now become the target.
There's a decent movie hiding somewhere inside Rain Fall, or maybe it's hiding just outside. Either way, the film throws together a variety of thriller elements but never quite manages to click, leaving us with an intriguing misfire.
Most viewers will probably be drawn to the film due to actor Gary Oldman's prominent presence on the cover, but he's merely a supporting character. The central figure is John Rain (Kippei Shiina, What the Snow Brings), a freelance assassin who specializes in making his murders look like death by some sort of natural cause. He's being hunted by the head of the Japanese office of the CIA (Gary Oldman, Batman Begins), who is intent on recovering a memory stick full of valuable information that he believes Rain is in possession of. The Yakuza would also like to get their hands on the memory stick, and have sent their own men after Rain. So begins a complicated game of cat-and-mouse, as the assorted players strategize and we slowly learn the context of this situation.
The film is based on a novel by Barry Eisler, a former member of the CIA who has written numerous books centered on the character of John Rain. Doing a bit of research online, I discovered that many who are familiar with the books weren't particularly happy with this film adaptation, as it supposedly oversimplifies the complexity of the novels. Of course, many fans of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne novels said the same thing about the film adaptations of those movies, but most agreed that the films worked pretty well in and of themselves.
While we're on the subject, it's clear that director Max Mannix (who previously wrote the acclaimed Tokyo Sonata) is intent on making a thriller in the vein of The Bourne Identity, as the film blatantly mimics that style at every possible opportunity. Alas, Rain Fall lacks the polish, pacing, and engaging central figure of those films. While there's nothing terribly wrong with Shiina's performance in the role of John Rain, he's just kind of a forgettable character who remains more defined by his abilities than by any particular element of personality.
Watching the film is a bit like riding a roller coaster that pauses for maintenance work every 30 seconds or so. Frenzied, hyperactive bursts of action give way to slow, meandering dialogue scenes on numerous occasions. I'm not saying the film should be all action all the time (or that the action scenes should be slower), but the film doesn't have a sense for how the overall product is going to affect the audience. Each scene in and of itself is reasonably well done, but when all of the pieces are mashed together it's kind of a mess. I think Gary Oldman is a terrific actor (and his performance in the film is pretty entertaining), but when he appears onscreen and starts yelling at the top of his lungs, it feels like the movie is pitching us a tone that's about five notches higher than it needs to be. When a terse, tense, "Take the shot," is called for, we get, "AHHHH! TAKE THE SHOT! TAKE THE SHOT! &$*#@!" Various subplots weave in and out of the film but rarely get proper (or at least satisfying) resolutions. Again, you could take a single scene out of just about any section and come away with a positive impression, but the movie doesn't work.
The transfer is fine, as the shady reds, greens, and blues of Tokyo come across with clarity and detail. It's a stellar standard-def transfer. Audio is okay, as the dialogue and sound design comes through nicely and blends well with the synth-y score. There are a few occasions where the music sounds slightly tinny, though it's possible that this is due to the electronics being used rather than the mix. Extras are limited to very brief interviews with the cast (including Oldman, who says he's in the movie because he, "thought it would be very sheik to do a Japanese film,") and a theatrical trailer.
The film is badly structured and it's terribly overlong at 110 minutes (the story easily could have been told just as effectively in 90), but I can't say I really dislike it all that much. I just can't recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R