I did a piece about Japanese actress Kyoko Hasegawa back in August of 2009. That’s when I became aware of the film Rain Fall. This is a political conspiracy and a thriller combined, and the setting is in Tokyo. Kippei Shiina stars in the role of John Rain, an America with a Japanese father. He’s an ex-CIA covert operative, a trainer of US Navy Seals, and an assassin. In short, he’s one bad dude that you won’t want to mess with.
Gary Oldman stars as the head of the CIA’s Tokyo office. He chews up the scenery in an over-the-top performance. Oldman’s character, William Holtzer, is mostly office-bound where he commands his men from a state-of-the-electronic-arts war room. When he’s not barking orders like ‘Take the shot, TAKE THE SHOT!, he’s cussing up a storm or bemoaning (Jesus Christ!) yet another missed opportunity.
The gorgeous Kyoko Hasegawa is on hand portraying the daughter of a Japanese whistle-blower. It will be Rain’s job to protect her.
Also on hand are a few Japanese police detectives, and the Yakuza. The detective is a wise and savvy veteran who gets a good handle on the case, but he can’t prove squat. The Yakuza are a shadowy presence. We will see the head guy a few times, but will meet some of his street soldiers on more than a few occasions.
The film was written and directed by Max Mannix. This was just his second time at directing a film. Names with two X’s are pretty rare; Xerxes, anyone?
The story is about a Japanese minister of public works who has discovered and been compiling a dossier of evidence about some of his fellow ministers in public works who have been getting rich through corruption – as in the construction of bridges to nowhere, unnecessary roads, and the kickbacks involved to the ministers who signed off on these useless projects.
He, Kawamura, wants to give this data to a reporter. In short – go public. Meanwhile the CIA and the Yakuza want to get their hands on this info, so that they can become the puppet master with the Japanese government being the puppet, by means of blackmail. Meaning that threatening to embarrass the Japanese government is something that our government was more than willing to do.
We aren’t particularly clear as the film begins about what Rain’s role is, or how he is involved. But something happens to Kawamura, the whistle blower, and now everyone we know in the film is desperate to get their hands on a memory stick that contains all the data that Kawamura had.
That’s about all you need to get you started. Oldman and the CIA staff speak only in English. The Japanese characters speak in Japanese so you’ll need the subtitles for that. When Rain and Holtzer speak, it is in English. Unless you want to switch back and forth, it is easier to leave the subtitles on – and you will find yourself reading the English ones even as you understand the spoken English.
The film has all the ingredients of being an excellent thriller set in Japan. Only it never reaches the level of excellent as a whole. Some scenes, and some of the performers are superb – however, the film lacks a cohesiveness. Too many questions and too many plot holes. In short, it is less than the sum of its parts.
Shiina who plays Rain has the right looks. He doesn’t miss a thing, he’s Bond and Bourne, and he is the perfect example of lethal. But his character doesn’t have a lot of depth to him. He lacks Bond’s wit, and while he does try and show a sensitive side ala Bourne, it comes off as unnecessary, and only adds time to the film. He is what his dossier says he is, but we need to know more in order to root for him. Only we don’t get it.
Kyoko Hasegawa looks beautiful but she has mostly night scenes and wears dark clothes. First she must be fearful, and then once the circumstances get amped up, and she realizes that she really is in danger, she comes around to understand what Rain tells her is all too true.
That leaves us with just two interesting characters – The Japanese police detective Ishikura played by Akira Emoto. He’s not stylish, his hair is more gray than not. It is fun to watch him at work as he pieces together the truth and is more right than he knows or can prove.
Oldman snarls, curses and barks at everyone. He too is fun, but sadly we all know that as written, he is the most paper-thin of all the characters in the film. He probably has the most lines, but he sleeps on a couch in his office, or is at work. We see him in the Tokyo streets only once. Beyond that we know nothing else. His role will mirror that of Joan Allen from the Bourne films, only where Allen’s Pamela Landy could be fierce but was mostly contained – when she was angry we’d see it on her face or expressions, whereas Oldman’s Holtzer is always angry, and it is all outward and external meaning we hear it rather than seeing it on his face.
Okay, so I am laying the blame on the script. Since Director Mannix is also the author of the screenplay, he’s going to have to be the one to take the hit. There’s action but not enough, and of what we do get was done so quickly or in a low light situation, that you can’t see enough of it to appreciate it.
I am of the belief that this is always a signal that the director didn’t want to work too hard on the action sequences.
Since it is available as DVD rental from Netflix, I’ll recommend it, but I am doing so with reservations. It runs 110 minutes, and is forgettable. See it for Oldman, Shiina, and Hasegawa, but Mannix borrowed heavily from the style and look of Bourne. The film is based on the Barry Eisler novel series with John Rain as the title subject, but based on this film, I don’t see a filmic Rain franchise in the cards.