3 July, 2011

I Come with the Rain 

Runtime: 114 mins | Director: Anh Hung Tran

Review By Delme Stephenson

‘I Come with the Rain’ is an unholy mess. Ultimately it’s a frustratingly flawed experience that generally squanders its potential. Yet it’s also a bizarrely interesting project that does have noble intentions - even if clumsily constructed.'

When initial footage surfaced on the internet I was genuinely intrigued by the film. It had an interesting premise and seemed to add a unique mix of themes, images and genres to the well established Hong Kong crime thriller. It also had a tested director, cast and crew. Troubling signs began to surface after it was completed. Although released in Japan in 2009, it wasn’t initially picked up by American distributors even though it was primarily targeted for the English speaking market. In most European markets it was released straight to DVD and was greeted quietly in the UK upon its release this year. It must be noted that in many cases the troubled or slow distribution of a film has nothing to do with its quality. In this case the problem is clearly apparent, it’s an awkward film.   

The film follows ex-police officer and private investigator Kline (Josh Hartnett) as he searches for Shitaou (Takuya Kimura) the missing son of a powerful and wealthy businessman. His mission takes him from Los Angles to Mindanao. Although apparently murdered, Shitaou is believed to have travelled to Hong Kong. It is there that Kline is able to get a lead on the case with the help of a friend on the Hong Kong police force, Meng Zi (Shawn Yue). However Kline becomes embroiled in a conflict between Zi and gangster Su Dongpo (Byung-hun Lee). To complicate matters Kline’s past comes to haunt him in the form of Hasford (Elias Koteas), a deranged serial killer who he killed as a police officer whilst in the line of duty. 

Anh Hung Tran, the film’s director has stated in an interview that his intentions were to “make a baroque action film, a passionate thriller, intense and poetic, haunted by 3 figures from the mythology of film and of the western world: serial killer, private investigator and Christlike figure”. With such highbrow intentions it’s a shame the film doesn’t work. I don’t have any issues with the themes in this the film nor do I believe they are beyond the viewer’s grasp. But it is rather troubling when a director can’t tackle the basics.

The editing of the film is terribly executed and at times amateurish. This has an obvious effect on both the pacing and narrative. Any intent of developing a foreboding atmosphere is ruined by poorly edited scenes with the camera often lingering on subjects for far too long and then cutting away to a scene with an entirely different feel. The general narrative is all over the place with subplots and characters quickly introduced and easily discarded. The development of the ‘Christlike’ theme is unsubtle and feels forced while some of the acting is unintentionally laughable because the context has been ill-devised. There really is alot at fault with this feature, but ‘I Come with the Rain’ is not beyond redemption. The cinematography, the general look of the film is great and has been well considered. In particular Hong Kong is well illuminated as too is Mindanao. The film is bathed in neon lights and lush green hues. The film certainly has style.  It is a beautiful looking film even if it is not a particularly well directed or written one. It does reference the neo-noir genre and this is quite an interesting addition, because it plays on the tropes of the genre whilst taking its viewer on a gonzo trudge; whether it is notable addition is another question entirely.                    

Anh Hung Tran, the film’s director and writer is to blame for the deficiencies in this production. It’s a surprising achievement considering his previous output. 1993’s ‘The Scent of Green Papaya’ was an amazing debut winning several high profile awards on the film circuit as well as being Oscar nominated for ‘Best Foreign film’. 1995’s ‘Cyclo’ saw him win best picture at the Venice film festival. He completed his ‘Vietnam trilogy’ in 2000 with ‘The Vertical Ray of the Sun’. ‘I Come with the Rain’ brings together an excellent crew and an international cast who are unfortunately and unforgivably wasted. Takuya Kimura and Byung-hun Lee are A-listers in their respective countries while Josh Hartnett deserves better. When you also factor in a music score written by Academy Winner Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla and Radiohead it really makes you crack your knuckles and roll your eyes.      

I do believe there is a good film in ‘I Come with the Rain’. It does have an interesting premise and is aesthetically pleasing. It does meditate on the nature of good and evil, but isn’t able to provide the audience with anything resembling a meaningful response or even connect its disparate characters. The whole affair feels as though someone has assembled the final project in a dark room with no lights while under the influence of several highly toxic substances. Trinity, the company that has acquired the film distribution rights in the UK has a really decent trailer out there. It’s quite an achievement… shame about the film…  

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