'I Come With the Rain'

Staggers onto the screen looking as bloody and bruised as many of its protags.

Shot two years ago, largely in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and finally preemed in Japan this summer, Josh Hartnett starrer “I Come With the Rain” staggers onto the screen looking as bloody and bruised as many of its protags. Frequently incoherent and often repulsively violent drama, centered on an American private investigator on the trail of a wacko gone AWOL in the Far East, reps a career misstep by Hartnett in his first international production. Luckily for him, the English-lingo pic is virtually unreleasable in major western territories, except as a DVD curio.

On the strength of thesp Takuya Kimura’s name, the film did so-so biz in Japan in June, but even with the popularity of co-star Lee Byung-hun (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “The Good the Bad the Weird”), the pic opened softly in South Korea Oct. 15. At the Pusan fest screening caught, even some violence-inured Korean auds headed for the exit midway through.

“Rain” is the first feature in nine years by Paris-based, Vietnamese-born auteur Tran Anh Hung, responsible for such delicate fare as “The Scent of Green Papaya” and “The Vertical Ray of the Sun.” Tran surprised everyone more than a decade ago with “Cyclo,” a violent descent into criminal hell by a Saigon bicycle-taxi driver; “Rain” has the same theme and ambience, but this time injected into a story with no redeeming artistry or even basic storytelling smarts.

Pic opens with a sequence of L.A. cop Kline (Hartnett) hunting down a sick serial killer, Hasford (Elias Koteas), that’s expanded in memory flashes throughout the movie. Cut to two years later, and the still-traumatized Kline, now a PI, is hired by a pharmaceuticals billionaire to find his son, Shitao (Kimura), who’s disappeared in Mindanao, Philippines.

In Mindanao, Kline is told by Vargas (Eusebio Poncela), an investigator previously hired by the billionaire, that Shitao may now be in Hong Kong. Hotfooting it to Kowloon, Kline looks up cop pal Meng Zi (Shawn Yue) for help.

Already rife with coincidences, the storyline becomes particularly fuzzy as Shitao is shown living in a grass hut where he performs miracles on tortured souls, bleeding from stigmata as he absorbs their pain. Turns out Shitao has even more pain in store when Lili (Tran Nu Yenkhe, the helmer’s wife, who has appeared in all his pics), the druggie g.f. of psycho gangster Su Dongpo (Lee), ends up in his hut.

With all its imagery of physical pain, mental scarring and Christ-like suffering and crucifixion, the pic makes for deeply unpleasant viewing, to little conceivable point. (One chaotic montage sequence halfway through plays like some kind of retro LSD trip.) Second half is almost impossible to follow logically, and not helped by laughable cameos, including Hong Kong thesp Sam Lee as a mad evangelist.

Coda, which returns to the story of Kline and the crazed Hasford, piles on the sick psycho-horror to numbing effect.

With the flashiest role, Lee steals the movie as the sadistic Su, though it’s a perf the South Korean thesp can almost phone in nowadays. Clean-cut Hartnett simply looks bemused, and Koteas comes close to hamming.

Widescreen lensing by Basque-born d.p. Juan Ruiz-Anchia is soaked in saturated colors but lacks any visual consistency.

I Come With the Rain

France-Spain-Hong Kong-Ireland

Production

A Central Films presentation of a TF1 Intl., Lumiere Intl., Studio Canal (France)/Morena Films (Spain)/Better Wide (Hong Kong)/LeBrocquy Fraser Prods. (Ireland) production. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Fernando Sulichin, Jean Cazes, Jean-Pierre Marois. Executive producers, Simon Fawcett, Alvaro Longoria, Julie le Brocquy. Directed, written by Tran Anh Hung.

Crew

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen, DV-to-35mm), Juan Ruiz-Anchia; editor, Mario Battistel; consulting editor, Lynzee Klingman; music, Gustavo Santaolalla; production designer, Benoit Barouh; art director, Devi Tirouvanziam; costume designer, Judy Shrewsbury; sound (Dolby Digital), Antonio Bloch, Gabriel Gutierrez; visual effects supervisor, Jordi San Agustin; special effects makeup, Olivier Afonso; stunt coordinator, Bruce Law; assistant directors, George Every, Johnnie Kong. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Oct. 13, 2009. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Josh Hartnett, Tran Nu Yenkhe, Lee Byung-hun, Takuya Kimura, Shawn Yue, Elias Koteas, David Tang, Eusebio Poncela, William Chow, Tze Ho, Ricky Chan, Sam Lee. (English dialogue)

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