Summary Judgement:  Does Heavy Rain work as a feature length film?  Yes with an if; no with a but.

Published by: Quantic Dream

Edited as an unofficial movie by: René Jacob

Starring the voice of: Pascal Langdale, Leon Ockenden, Jacqui Ainsley and Sam Douglas

Years ago, Kaz Harai proudly announced that the Playstaiton 3 would retail for $599.99.  In doing so he brought my Sony brand loyalty into question.  A couple years later, my little sister’s boyfriend told me that Sony was yanking the backwards compatibility on the PS3.  The next day, I went out and bought an Xbox 360.  Fast forward about a year and a half and my buddy Jovahn won’t shut up about a game called Heavy Rain. I wished he and his wife happy gaming, resigned to the knowledge that I wouldn’t get a chance to experience Sony’s “very grown-up” interactive movie.  All that changed when Mr. Jacob released his feature length edit of Heavy Rain.  Finally, a chance for us Microsoft slaves to get in on the action.

To the question at hand: does an edited and abridged version of Heavy Rain work as a movie?  Well, sort of, but not very well.  The story, which is a noir-ish fusion of Saw – back when Saw was original and not an ante-upping spoof of itself – and Seven, isn’t really anything groundbreaking.  As a movie, Heavy Rain’s story centers on Ethan Mars (Pascal Langdale).  Ethan is a bit of a broken man and his life only gets worse when one of his sons is kidnapped by a serial killer called “The Origami Killer”.  Like all good crime stories, Heavy Rain has an FBI profiler (Leon Ockenden), a private detective (Sam Douglas), idiot cops and some more-than-meets-the-eye eye-candy (Jacqui Ainsley).  Since the Origami Killer’s victims are found drowned in rain water, the police calculate that Ethan’s son has four days, or six inches of precipitation, before he is dead.  As a movie, the set-up is a little derivative, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

While watching the movie on Youtube can’t compare to the experience of seeing it on a HD television, there’s no missing the cinematic quality to Heavy Rain’s opening credits.  The moody soundtrack works perfectly with slow camera pans, a bleak cityscape and the eerie look of indifference on the faces of digital actors.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t maintain this artistic feel.  While the cinematic quality settles into an ebb and flow that occasionally allows me to forget that I am watching a video game, it is not consistent throughout the entire movie.   It’s not a huge problem, but it is something I noticed more than once.

My real problem with the game/movie is its god-awful voice acting.  For a story set in America, there are way too many Gallic accents.  I know, Quantic Dream is a French company.  But at the risk of sounding boorish, I don’t care.  Don’t set the story in America if you can’t find voice actors to suit the location.  The voice acting reaches its second lowest point with Ethan’s sons.  I suspect that they actually hauled children into the studio to record their lines.  If Zone of the Enders taught us anything, it is that you should never ever use children to voice children.

The greatest offense to the ears comes from the voice actors attempting to do accents.  One character’s Scottish brogue evoked memories of Paul Rudd’s reggae leprechaun voice.  Stretched out over twelve hours, the bad voice acting may not feel so acute.  Condensed into just under three hours, Heavy Rain left me longing for French dialogue with English subtitles.  Considering the Noir mood of the game, editing the movie in French might have been a more stylistically effective choice.

From a plot perspective, the biggest problem with Heavy Rain as a movie is that it is utterly predictable.  Again, I can’t say if this is endemic to the game or a symptom of Mr. Jacob’s editing.  All I know is that nothing about this story really surprised me.  The narrative only managed to catch me off guard when it was wholly divorced from reality or logic.  Even as the Origami Killer is revealed I found myself thinking that a C-list episode of Castle offers a better motivated antagonist.  Despite its apparent strengths as a video game, it’s hard to call a long, predictable and utterly unsatisfying story an excellent entertainment investment.

Perhaps turning Heavy Rain into a feature length movie should remind us of the old adage, “Getting there is half the fun.”  If it takes twelve hours to play through Heavy Rain should we really expect it to work at one quarter of the length?  Even after three hours of movie, I didn’t feel any attachment to the story’s characters.  I could care less about Ethan’s kid, the Origami killer, or awkward elbowy mostly clothed sex scenes.  Perhaps I need the empathy that comes through controlling a character to care about them within this context.  Setting aside the bad voice acting and trope burdened story, I can’t help but feel that the essential thing that would make me care about Heavy Rain is lost on the editing room floor.

For people who have no intention of buying, borrowing or stealing a PS3 to play Heavy Rain, this movie is a barely acceptable substitution assuming you have three hours to burn.  However, the story isn’t so original that missing it will somehow diminish your life.  At best, watching this movie will make you fit to be a Heavy Rain poseur, apt to criticize without ever experiencing the game.

Overall Score: I’m going to give René Jacob a +4 for the effort that he put into this project but as a movie Heavy Rain is a solid 0.  Curious?  Here’s the first part of the movie for your viewing pleasure.