Ok, I really liked Speed Racer. And, no not just because Rain was in it although it was really cool that he was. But even more importantly, he landed on the Wachowski’s radar and THAT resulted in Ninja Assassin. I concur that Rain would make an incredibly good action film star with a healthy side of brood and insolence mixed in. I rather enjoy him in broody, insolent roles where you ultimately end up liking him because somewhere buried beneath those layers of insolence is a decent guy who upon discovering his own decency, lets us in on it. Rain’s Taejo Togokahn is one of those guys.
I grew up watching the Speed Racer cartoon. It was the first anime show to be exported to the US from Japan that ended up being really successful. I had a mad crush on Speed. I mean, look at him! For a cartoon, he was really handsome! And he drove THE coolest car, the Mach 5.
I remember when the movie version came out but did not give it much thought. Yes I was an old school Speed Racer fan, but I long filed it away after I stopped watching the cartoon. Then Rain happened. Now I had reason to check the movie out.
The Wachowskis wrote and directed this film. It is a beautiful homage to Japanese anime with a touch of martial arts, a whole lot of fantasy and the most vivid palette I have seen in a film that wasn’t strictly an animation piece. I watched it on Blu-ray and the colors leapt off of my screen. It was a cartoon come to life and from an artistic standpoint, it was vibrant, lush, and beautiful.
The underlying theme of the movie seems to be a David versus Goliath-type scenario coupled with familial duty. There is the big corrupt corporate race industry entity (Royalton) that is trying to buy out and/or partner with smaller privately owned race car production companies in order to ultimately have a complete monopoly of the industry. Taejo is from one of those smaller entities, Speed from an even smaller one. Familial duty weighs heavy on both Speed and Taejo with each making choices driven by their desire to please and/or assist their families.
Rain’s Taejo is a minor character but he brought some big presence in his scenes. When we are first introduced to Taejo, he is taking a beating. It’s not pretty and it is obvious Taejo is in some deep trouble.
He seems to be mixed up with some gangster race thugs who have him purposely losing races in order to profit it from it. He has infiltrated these race fixers in order to get information that will ultimately incriminate the big bad corporate entity, Royalton, thus preventing it from taking over his family’s racing business.
He gets out of this situation by literally being tossed from a semi-tractor trailer. And in true cartoon fashion, we see Taejo momentarily flying through mid-air until he lands harshly on the ground.
He is then further rescued from this situation by Racer X. Racer X is the conscious of the film or voice of reason in the film in that he knows there is trouble in the racing industry and knows Taejo has information that will help bring the corruption to light. Racer X is working in tandem with the WRL (World Racing League) to expose Royalton and eventually shut their operation down. Unfortunately, Taejo is not in the least bit interested in helping Racer X or the racing industry. His focus is saving his own family’s business. These two will meet again when they partner as a racing team with Speed Racer.
For the moment, however, Taejo was not buying what Racer X was selling.
I don’t want to go into too much more of the storyline but I do want to touch on a couple of things that as a Rain fangirl, I really enjoyed. The Wachowskis clearly knew how to capitalize on Rain’s appeal. I think Andy and Lana were totally wooed and wowed by Rain. Taejo may not have had a whole lot of dialogue, but the Wachowskis sure let him eat up the screen when he was on it.
Taejo is about to be drugged so that he is unable to finish a cross county road rally race where he is partnered with both Racer X and Speed. Racer X and Speed think that if they help Taejo win the race, Taejo will return the favor by disclosing all of his undercover information to help incriminate Royalton. But Taejo has ulterior motives. The first shot is an aerial looking down on a sleeping Taejo.
Ok, so Rain did not yet have his Ninja Assassin abs but he was still in mighty fine shape nonetheless and looking good.
The drug is administered from a ninja (ironic) who is poised atop that light fixture above Taejo’s bed – you cannot really see him in the picture above but he is there. The ninja lowers a fine thread doused with a liquid drug that will eventually hover over Taejo’s mouth and gently release the drug that somehow drips into Taejo’s slightly parted lips. Ok…when I saw this scene all I could do was scream (and squee) at my television: Rain’s lips!! Rain’s lips!! Rain’s lips!! I think we all know that Rain has got to have the most luscious pair of lips ever created. Yeah, I am somewhat biased. But I think I am telling the truth.
I told you.
The drug now in his system, Taejo is unable to stand or walk, let alone drive a race car. Nice shots ahead….
Race day and Rain is decked in a white form-fitted racing jumpsuit. Hot. Also, I always knew he was a tall guy with my reference point being his female costars who always look so diminutive next to him. But he looks absolutely imposing next to his male costars, Emile Hirsch and Matthew Fox.
Some Taejo badassery:
And some post-race victory swag:
He gets to visit some pre-Ninja Assassin moves and looks pretty good doing so.
Gratuitous close ups….dear lord this man is gorgeous and the Wachowskis know it.
Anyone else helplessly fixated on his lips? Does the camera love this guy or what??
Taejo cleans up really nice.
By the looks of this post, one could easily surmise that this film was more about Taejo Togokahn and not Speed Racer…LOL! But this is after all a post script to my initial K-Shot post of Rain so I believe I am reasonably justified in focusing only on his character in the film. And, I give Rain props for a character well-delivered. Clearly the Wachowskis felt he was capable of holding his own here. It is no surprise they ultimately cast him as the ruthless (and oh so hot) Raizo in Ninja Assassin.
He did this sweet interview for Asian Connections prior to the release of Speed Racer. I am always so swept away by the way he consistently presents himself with such genuineness and ease always so humble and always so gracious when he speaks of his fans. And OMG…the long hair and glasses~~~~~THUNK! As he points out in the interview, he was getting ready to begin filming Ninja Assassin.
Speed Racer was definitely Rain’s perfect “first date” with the Wachowskis and Hollywood in general. The story here was nothing groundbreaking or new, but it was engaging enough and visually spectacular (especially in HD Blu-ray). The cast was pretty solid, too. John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Emile Hirsch, and Christina Ricci….that’s not too shabby. Rain was in good seasoned Hollywood company here. I look at this piece as a solid win for Rain in that he had the opportunity to work with some Hollywood bigs and I am certain he left a wonderful impression on each of them. In fact, I read where John Goodman, knowing about Rain’s work ethic, said that Rain was the hardest working man in show business. That is quite a compliment and, in looking back at his 10+ year career, pretty spot on.
Well done, Rain, well done….! ♥