Don't be fooled by Lionsgate's misleading cover art for Max Mannix's 2009 adaptation of former C.I.A. agent Barry Eisler's novel, Rain Fall - despite the prominent presence of Gary Oldman, one of the finest actors of our generation, he's not really in it all that much. Rather, the movie follows an assassin for hire named John Rain (Kippei Shiina) whose modus operandi is to make it look like his victims actually fall prey to unfortunate accidents or natural causes rather than a killer's hand. He's very good at what he does and has done quite well for himself. Things change for Rain when the C.I.A., lead by a man named Holtzer (the aforementioned Oldman) figure that he's got in possession of a computer flash drive that contains some valuable secrets that they would like to get their hands on. As such, Holtzer and his crew head out to retrieve the flash drive from Rain at whatever means necessary. What's on the memory stick? Evidence that could put some high ranking Japanese officials in some very hot water, the type of information that the media would just have a complete field day with.
This isn't all there is to the story, however, because the local Yakuza would also like to get their hands on the memory stick, ideally before the C.I.A. can get it. What no one seems to understand, however, is how Rain got the memory stick in the first place or what he and his chosen occupation may have to do with all of this.
Very obviously influenced by the success of the Bourne franchise, Rain Fall borrows more than just conspiracy theories and a mysterious, dangerous lead character from those films - it also completely apes its style, right down to the irritating close up shots and shaky-cam used to film the fight scenes. The biggest problem with the film, however, isn't the visuals employed in the action scenes but the pacing and the inconsistent tone. The picture jumps from hyper-active combat to blend melodrama without much regard for how one can affect the other, and so it's almost like the film keeps hitting the breaks as soon as it picks up any speed. Now, some of these scenes are tense, most of them are well shot, and they're all reasonably well acted but that doesn't change the fact that the movie is just all over the place and never really seems to find its rhythm.
As far as the cast are concerned, Goldman is way too over the top here. When he's got solid material to work with, he's quite simply one of the best in the business but all the script seems to really require him to do is show up at random intervals and yell at people. He doesn't show much range outside of that and his character isn't so much interesting as he is unbelievable and at times rather obnoxious. Kippei Shiina, on the other hand, shows just the right amount of restraint to make the part work for him. He's smooth, smart, calculating and collected and it's not all that difficult to accept him in the role. There's an interesting vibe to his character as well, as even though he's definitely got it together on the surface, we know very well what he's capable of and we know that it's not very nice.
It's a shame that Rain Fall never really comes together the way that it should. There are moments where the picture is more than interesting and even quite gripping, but once the movie grabs us, it just as quickly lets us go. That same unevenness and inconsistent pacing are what ultimately drag the film down and which make it difficult to enjoy and even to pay attention to (the fact that it feels about fifteen minutes too long doesn't help in that regard either). Had more care and concern been put into editing the picture more consistently rather than attempting to bedazzle us with ultra-fast moving fight scenes, it probably would have wound up being a whole lot more interesting and effective than it is.
Rain Fall arrives on DVD in a good 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The bright neon's of the Japanese street settings glow nicely in the darkness while skin tones look lifelike and natural. There are some mild compression artifacts in a few of the darker scenes and shadow detail suffers a little bit here and there but outside of that the image is pretty stable. Lighter scenes show fine detail and there is only slight ringing noticeable here and there. Not quite a perfect transfer, but a pretty solid one overall.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track on this release is fine. There isn't a massive amount of surround usage here, but the rear channels do kick in during the more action intensive moments and provide some nice spatial resonance as far as the score is concerned. Dialogue is clean, clear and free of distortion and the levels are properly balanced ensuring you can hear the performers without any problem over top of the music and various sound effects and background noises scattered throughout the movie.
Extras are very light on this disc, relegated to only a few brief cast and crew interviews in featurette form and a theatrical trailer. Oldman is at least interviewed here, and he gives his reasons for taking the part and talks about what he liked about the project, but this is definitely very light and just barely scratches the surface as far as examining and exploring the making of the film.
Somewhere in the midst of the sloppy editing, poor pacing and bloated script that is Rain Fall is a compelling story trying to get out. Sadly, it never quite makes it. Lionsgate's DVD looks and sounds just fine and contains some light, cursory extra features, but the film misfires far too often to really recommend this one. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.