Eye For Film >> Movies >> I Come With The Rain (2008) Film Review
Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung has been reaping plenty of column inches for his recent film adaptation of acclaimed author Haruki Murakami's novel Norwegian Wood. Yet before tackling that esteemed novel, he wrote and directed this 2009 thriller which largely escaped any kind of mainstream press attention and has gone, in the UK at least, quickly to DVD following a limited March cinema release and a quick run on the festival circuit.
The director is Vietnamese, the main star is American actor Josh Hartnett, but he is backed up by established Korean star Lee Byung-hun (from the recent hit I Saw The Devil), American indie veteran Elias Koteas, and Infernal Affairs star Shawn Yue from Hong Kong. The setting and cast are largely pan-Asian though all the Asian cast mostly speak English throughout, even to each other. The music is composed by Academy Award Winner Gustavo Santaolalla and Radiohead (Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood would go on to score Norwegian Wood). The story takes place in Los Angeles, Mindanao and Hong Kong. This film is an international collaborative effort that has gathered together a combination of actors, musicians and shooting locations that can only be called 'curious'.
I Come With The Rain sees ex-Los Angeles cop turned private eye Kline (Hartnett) travelling to Hong Kong by way of The Philippines in search of Shitao (Takuya Kimura), the missing son of a powerful pharmaceutical conglomerate boss who talks to Kline only by webcam. Enlisting Meng Zi (Yue), a friend and a former colleague now working for the Hong Kong Police, Kline tries to pick up Shitao's trail in the intense metropolis of Hong Kong City. But also looking for Shitao is local sociopathic gangster Su Dongpo (Lee) who is trying to find his beautiful, drug addicted girlfriend Lili (Tran Nu Yen Khe).
Lili, through sheer chance following a car crash, has ended up in Shitao's care as she battles with withdrawal, and his calming presence binds her to him. Lili starts to suspect Shitao may have special healing powers, despite the fact he lives in a shack out in a derelict wasteland on the city limits and seemingly has no possessions or money.
As for Kline, he is distracted from his search by horrific memories of the last case he worked on stateside- tracking down the serial killer Hasford (Koteas), whose 'body of work' involving fusing human corpses together in what he felt were perfect depictions of agony. As more evidence emerges that Shitao might in fact be an actual Christ-like healing figure, Kline and Su Dongpo must both decide what they are going to do when they find him, if their self-destructive and tortured psyches can hold together that long...
Director Tran describes I Come With the Rain as “a baroque action film, a passionate thriller... haunted by three figures from the mythology of film and the western world: serial killer, private investigator and Christ-like figure.” Certainly these essential, some would say cliched, cinematic icons are present and correct: Hartnett's character is suitably burned out and haunted by his last case where he identified too strongly with his suspect, Shitao's arc has all the trappings of the scourging of Christ, Koteas' serial killer has some suitably grotesque fused creations in his basement and, of course, considers himself as a flesh artist rather than a murderer.
Also present and correct is Tran's lush cinematography, locations and costuming. Viewers who appreciated the production design of Norwegian Wood will be well satisfied here, though this film is, if anything, over-styled. Billing his film as a baroque 'neo-noir', he stacks up mouthwatering and moody backdrops and set pieces one after the other: Hartnett studies mug shots lying beside a beautiful Philippine waterfall, frequently rests his weary head against his hotel room window overlooking the stunning, neon-drenched vista of Hong Kong below, and drips sweat in dimly lit Mindanao hotel rooms and smoky bars frequented by slow dancing nudes.
Full homage is paid to just about every noir and cop thriller trope under the sun, dressed with a baroque sensibility that sees killings take place on luxury marble floors lit by fish tanks, bright and sharp costuming (almost everyone is dressed in designer threads, particularly the Asian characters on the wrong side of the law), and the piece de resistance - the H.R Giger-esque fusion flesh sculptures proudly displayed by Hasford.
It is an aesthetic that is almost overwhelming at times. The camera lingers on flesh in this film - caressing it, studying it, revelling in its exquisite and terrifying beauty, whether it is Shitao's stigmata-like scars, Lili's gorgeous olive-coloured legs, or Hasford's nightmare creations. Religious symbolism and allegory is heavy throughout, early on we meet Shitao's “father” as a distant webcam-projected voice in a soulless postmodern LA luxury apartment , a distant God-like figure contrasted against his over-empathic and suffering son on Earth. This is New Testament by way of noir.
Though directors should be praised for being willing to experiment with genre, Tran Anh Hung's effort simply doesn't coalesce, and remains a strange and often baffling experiment in which plot is simply a coat hanger for a precise and stylish (and probably overcooked) construct of mood and philosophical musing. Homages to noir come over too often as clumsy and cliched, the pacing is overly languid (how many balcony scenes do we need of Hartnett?), and despite some impressive cinematography that helps conjure a dreamy, muggy ambience, the baroque-themed window dressing often becomes distracting.
The plotting suffers also from some unexplained events, and though the performances are generally fine there is some stilted and difficult-to-understand delivery from cast members perhaps not used to English (it is odd that the entire cast speak English when subtitles would have sufficed in many scenes). Certainly I Come With The Rain is at times striking sensory experience -the soundtrack is excellent - but it is just not ultimately a satisfying one.Reviewed on: 08 May 2011