RAIN DOGS: Ho...Hum...
RAIN DOGS (Malaysian drama in Cantonese)
Cast: Kuan Choon Wai, Liu Wai Hung, Yasmin Ahmad, Pete Teo, Chua Thien See and Lee Yoke Lan
Director: Ho Yuhang
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Like many local Indie films of today, Rain Dogs requires lots of patience and indulgence on the part of the audience. Camera-work is sluggish, the narrative meanders at a lethargic and sometimes irritating pace, and we have to tolerate a whole lot of irrelevant and pointless sequences, shot ostensibly to beef up the footage.
Indeed, to the foreigners, Ho Yuhang's coming-of-age drama may offer insights into a youth's angst in a multi-cultural Malaysian context. It captures scenes and sights that foreign eyes may find fascinating. This may explain the many accolades heaped upon Rain Dogs at the international film festivals abroad. However, if you are a local, you would soon realise that what is happening on-screen is just what is happening outside our window: scenes of life in Malaysia.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Rain Dogs is the story of 19-year-old Tung (Kuan Choon Wai), a youth from an unidentified village in Malaysia, who journeys to Kuala Lumpur to visit his elder brother Hong (Cheung Wing Hong). This turns out to be some sort of 'baptism of fire' for our protagonist as he is robbed right smack in his cheap hotel room; sees his brother getting involved with thugs working for a bookie, and is duly sent home by bus a few days later.
More 'dark clouds' and 'rain' follow: Tung gets news of Hong's death in a snooker-room brawl; he is presented with a chance for revenge by his brother's buddies; and, back home, he has to wrestle with his mother's (Lee Yoke Lan) affair with a deadbeat boyfriend. Now, the dispassionate Tung is more of a spectator than a doer. His only passion in life is fishing. Faced with such problems, Tung does what he does best: Escape. He runs off to his uncle's (Hong Kong drama star Liu Wai Hung) place where his loving aunt (Yasmin Ahmad, speaking awkward Cantonese) dotes on their primary school son. Here, Tung gets a chance for a 'romantic interlude' with two pretty sisters (which he does nothing about) and another 'baptism of fire' involving a gun.
HIGHLIGHTS: Oh yes, parts of the movie play to the strains of Odetta's Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child which helps to set the mood of Tung's family background, except that Tung is fatherless, instead of motherless.
LOWLIGHTS: Halfway through, we would have had enough of the passive Tung who seems unable to make any headway with anyone or anything in his life. Worse, the movie gets even more restless and intolerable as director Ho Yuhang throws in scenes of fireworks, kite-flying and a snake scare which are totally irrelevant to the plot.
Rain Dogs, shot in HD (high-definition) format and converted to 35mm, is largely humourless and drab. Kuan is so disaffecting and wooden that his Tung gets no sympathy from us. Others, like Yasmin and Liu, are a godsend, bringing comic and dramatic relief to scenes largely dominated by Kuan.
THE LOWDOWN: Ho ends the movie with a shot of a rainbow – the Biblical promise of a new beginning. Now, dare we hope...?