Posts Tagged ‘rain’

I COME WITH THE RAIN

2010/05/18

http://icome.gyao.jp/

Hong Kong / France / Ireland 2009   Directed & Written by: Tran Anh Hung Produced by: Fernando Sulichin, Jean Cazes, Jean-Pierre Marois  Cinematography by: Juan Ruiz Anchia  Editing: Mario Battistel   Music: Gustavo Santaolalla, Radiohead Cast: Josh Hartnett, Elias Koteas, Lee Byung-Hun, Takuya Kimura, Shawn Yue, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Sam Lee

Also for his latest work Tran Anh Hung sticks to his formula and delivers another exercise in style over substance filmmaking. If you know his earlier works you’ll be surprised though that I COME WITH THE RAIN features a more solid storyline, reshuffled via editing into non-linear order: ex-cop Kline (Josh Hartnett) is hired by the head of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company to find his son Shitao. Shitao was last seen somewhere in the Filipino jungle raising money for an orphanage. Once Kline arrives to investigate it turns out that Shitao obviously has been shot while asking or donations. However, soon after that someone reports him showing up in Hong Kong, and as Kline follows his trail the story gets more and more mysterious, if not delirious.

From its weird opening I COME WITH THE RAIN makes it instantly clear that this is art house terrain and we better leave the popcorn at home: I COME WITH THE RAIN can only be considered entertaining if you enjoy the bizarre and obscure and indulge in extreme violence as well as extreme vagueness. As I said before the movie features what I consider Tran Anh Hung’s probably most conventional storyline – by his standards that is. Of course the story unfolds in a non-conventional manner thanks to editing, but once the movie’s over we can put all the pieces together easily.

The problem is that even then it seems several pieces are missing, but very typically for Tran Anh Hung he intends to leave many things unspoken: the audience will have to decide how far they are willing to follow his train of thought and how capable they are to follow it in the first place. Of course we all appreciate movies that leave room for imagination and reflection, and I COME WITH THE RAIN leaves plenty of room. Some of the relationships between characters are hard to grasp though and ultimately you will have to buy the main plot point as otherwise you’ll be utterly disappointed. Also, you’ll have to accept that there is no conventional ending or satisfying explanation waiting for you. Without giving too much away it must be noted that I COME WITH THE RAIN is not what it seems to be, but beyond its serial killer crime drama surface it essentially is a film about pain and healing, about belief and religion, about the scars life leaves on all of us.

I reckon that style still dominates substance in I COME WITH THE RAIN – it’s another visual delicacy from the master. The movie is very watchable for its aesthetics alone, with carefully selected frames, strong colors, sensual lighting and enthralling moments of love and death. On the other hand some scenes are so over the top that acting becomes overacting and instead of holding our breaths we begin to laugh out loud. It happened to me a few times throughout the film that I couldn’t take it seriously anymore. That doesn’t mean that the movie fails, but it’s a rocky road at times and you’ll have to turn a blind eye here and there.

I find it hard to make up my mind about I COME WITH THE RAIN. How can I complain about its gorgeous visuals, original story and great cast (by the way, Josh Hartnett is the better Collin Farrell) in view of so much lackluster productions coming to cinemas every year? How can I complain about Tran Anh Hung taking things to the limit and beyond in view of movies becoming more and more indistinguishable? On the other hand I COME WITH THE RAIN doesn’t really go anywhere and the essential points of the storyline elicit no more than a “so what”? There’s no conclusion in it for us, nothing much to learn, nothing that changes our perspective of things.

Having said that maybe it is true that beauty is only skin-deep after all. I COME WITH THE RAIN is a film by Tran Anh Hung for Tran Anh Hung. I don’t see that it has been created with an audience in mind. So I COME WITH THE RAIN is true art: highly imaginative, symbolic, perfectly crafted and utmost exciting, minus a purpose.

J.


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NINJA ASSASSIN

2010/01/24

http://ninja-assassin-movie.warnerbros.com

USA/D 2009  Directed by: James McTeigue   Story: Matthew Sand   Script: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynsk   Production: Joel Silver, Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Grant Hill  Cinematography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub   Editing: Gian Ganziano, Joseph Jett Sally   Music: Iian Eshkeri   Cast: Rain, Naomi Harris, Ben Miles, Sho Kosugi

And now for something completely different: the new, highly anticipated Wachowski brothers movie has arrived hot from the press. NINJA ASSASSIN, directed by James “V FOR VENDETTA” McTeigue continues the zigzag course of the MATRIX inventors and surprises us once more. Only this time not positively.

It would be a pure waste of time to describe the thin Plot in more than three sentences. For the sake of it thus sentence 1: a Ninja clan kidnaps children and turns them into Super-Ninjas. Sentence 2: One of the students develops his own opinion, turns against the “foster father” and everything escalates in an international guerilla war between Ninjas and police authorities. Sentence 3: Naturally, there’s also a love story.

NINJA ASSASSIN certainly wins the accolade for the worst script in recent years. I can’t imagine how such a lame story, which in addition is dreadfully written and unbelievably formulaic, featuring horrible dialogue and tremendous loopholes was ever greenlit. Any dialogue from any of the DIE HARD sequels seems like a work of Keats in comparison. NINJA ASSASSIN crosses the border to ridiculous terrain more than once and there are dozens of plain stupid scenes that leave us wondering what drugs they were on when shooting the movie. In addition the whole cast performs far below average and are a shame for anyone considering himself a serious actor. Mostly NINJA ASSASSIN is not much better than a school play.

The next problem is the aesthetics: the visual style of NINJA ASSASSIN is unbearable. The lighting must have been done by a blind person, whereas color and contrast are on Telenovela level (even the production stills look better than the film itself) and the framing and camerawork are extremely random, if not clumsy. It appears that McTeigue is simply the wrong man sitting on the director’s chair. V FOR VENDETTA already displayed his talent for wasting opportunities rather than seizing the possibilities the graphic novel offered. NINJA ASSASSIN now is no exception, but by comparison however it’s a genuine disaster. The editing more than once recalls “fond” memories of B-Horror movies and C-Ninja movies of the 70’s and 80’s, which often most inelegantly were cutting back and forth between static dialogues or badly choreographed action sequences. The hiring of Sho Kosugi, who’s mumbling his way through the film in a Brando-like tone and manner, should have been a warning sign. NINJA ASSASSIN was a great chance to pay homage to the Ninja movie subgenre, but McTeigue is not able to abstract, adapt and revitalize the genre in any appropriate way – or at all, that is. And no: NINJA ASSASSIN clearly is not that lousy on purpose, trying to be a smart B-movie satire or reminiscence.

So what’s good about NINJA ASSASSIN? If you subtract all the endless flashbacks and Rains training sequences (which make for a substantial part of the film) you can enjoy a splatterfest rarely ever seen in mainstream cinema. Once again the major studios get away with everything: NINJA ASSASSIN dwells endlessly in scenes of graphic violence. Separated limbs and divided bodies are displayed throughout the entire film and blood spurts without any sense out of everything the camera captures. NINJA ASSASSIN without a doubt contains some of the most brutal killing scenes of modern mainstream cinema, in case this alone is of any interest. However, ICHI THE KILLER was there first and did what it did earlier, better and with far less budget. And in a way it feels like FUDOH, another Miike film, was the blueprint for some of the choreographed violence now shown in NINJA ASSASSIN.

NINJA ASSASSIN will certainly not disappoint all those who expect a maximum of blood and gore. Thank god that nowadays we don’t have to sneak into some dodgy video rental store anymore to get this kind of fare, but instead are being served in the glossy multiplex cinema downtown. The marketing people should have really come up with the idea to produce NINJA ASSASSIN barf bags and hand it out to all those couples who ended up watching the film accidentally because of oh-so-cute Rain. Some will certainly need it. Hurray, isn’t that fun seeing nameless cannon fodder being turned into minced meat by the minute.

The bottom line: NINJA ASSASSIN is the worthy successor of AMERICAN NINJA and Rain is the Asian Michael Dudikoff. I guess congratulations are in order. In some twisted sense the film may have a certain charm (at least for those who indeed grew up with junk like AMERICAN NINJA), but the result is hardly what the Wachowskis had in mind and the audience is expecting. Let’s quickly summarize NINJA ASSASSIN: sorry effort.

J.