LOS ANGELES—The Hollywood Reporter declared “I Come With the Rain,” the Josh Hartnett film partly shot in the Philippines, as a “visually stunning thriller.”
Two other trade publications, however, panned the movie filmed in Mount Diwalwal in Compostela Valley, Mindanao. Shown as a gala presentation selection at the recent Pusan International Film Festival, “I Come With the Rain” features Filipino actress Thea Aquino in a cast that includes Elias Koteas, Korean star Lee Byung-hun, Japanese TV idol Kimura Takuya, Shawn Yue, Tran Nu Yen-Khe, Simon Andreu, Eusebio Poncela and Russ Kingston.
Mount Diwalwal residents were also tapped as extras in the film written and directed by Tran Anh Hung, the Vietnamese filmmaker whose credits include “The Scent of the Green Papaya” (Camera d’Or in Cannes, 1993) and “Cyclo” (Golden Lion in Venice, 1995).
The Hollywood Reporter’s review by Elizabeth Kerr is very favorable, a complete contrast to the verdicts by Variety and Screen International.
Let’s begin with the good news—with excerpts from Kerr’s review: “A vivid opening segment of a vicious beating sets the tone for this noirish thriller about a traumatized ex-cop on a hunt for the missing son of a powerful pharmaceutical mogul. Jumping from Los Angeles to the Philippines and Hong Kong, ‘I Come With the Rain’ is a moody, supremely stylistic exercise in sweaty underworld revenge that could have easily teetered over into Orientalism.
“It never does, thanks largely to director Tran Ahn Hung’s restraint (from heavy exoticizing) and focus on bloody misery and the search for redemption and salvation.
“There is a lurid aspect to ‘Rain,’ and Tran—known for his general classiness—proves that he’s able to wallow in human depravity with the best of them. The aesthetically lush brutal—and biblical—violence reminiscent of ‘Oldboy’ is partnered with some garish, outré images: 9mm bullets aren’t traditionally included in foreplay, vagrants aren’t normally beaten to death with freshly-shot dogs, shooting victims rarely come back from beyond the grave as Christ-like healers. All these are as languidly shot (in properly lit HD) as the rest of the film.
“‘Rain’ is a textbook example of a film that will live or die on the strength of its cast. As a cop that identified a little too strongly with his quarry, Hartnett is with Kimura in being cast against type. He acquits himself reasonably well; however, Kimura (‘2046’) is at his best when doing the rascally heroic thing on television. When he tries to act, as he does here, it can backfire on him, but he does manage a quiet intensity as the proverbial lamb trying to work in an urban jungle.
“Though nearly two hours long, ‘Rain’ never really drags, and Tran somehow manages to keep his religious imagery from dipping into histrionic. It may not be the subtlest of films from 2009, but it’s certainly one of the most aggressively ambient.”
Variety’s Derek Elley wrote: “Shot two years ago, largely in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and finally preemed in Japan last summer, the 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...
“Pic opens with a sequence of LA 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 story line 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...
“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 ... 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. 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.”
‘Unique, but incoherent’
Darcy Paquet of Screen Daily weighed in with this review: “Something seems to have gone terribly wrong in the making of ‘I Come with the Rain,’ an undeniably unique but nearly incoherent ... thriller starring Josh Hartnett and a handful of Asian stars. This handsomely produced feature from ... director Tran Anh Hung looks good, but its story rapidly disintegrates after the second reel.
“The film starts off innocuously enough, setting up its story with obvious strokes and weighed down only by some clunky dialogue. But from the time Kline lands in Hong Kong, the plot grows stranger and less coherent with each passing minute. Virtually every character in the film acts in obsessive, unpredictable ways, but the screenplay makes very little effort to provide any motivations for their actions.
“Soon the dialogue begins to take a philosophical turn, with Jesus references piling up around Shitao’s character and a long flashback sequence devoted to the serial killer’s musings on human agony. Some mainstream viewers may be put off by the film’s unusually high levels of violence and gore...
“Hartnett gives it his best shot, but his character has lost most of its credibility by the film’s conclusion. Lee and Kimura also show flashes of charisma which are ultimately lost in the noise.”