BLACK RAIN (1989)
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here
Tagline: An American Cop in Japan. Their country. Their laws. Their game. His rules.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Kate Capshaw and Ken Takatura.
THE PLAN: Slick New York detectives Nick Conklin and Charlie Vincent are tasked with escorting a deadly Yakuza gangster to Japan for extradition; once there, however, their prisoner escapes, landing the two cops in unfamiliar territory – in every sense of the term.
THE KILL: BLACK RAIN sometimes feels like the lost Ridley Scott movie, the one no one necessarily thinks about when considering the occasionally great director's career. It's perhaps overshadowed by his startling sci-fi works, ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, and the sweeping historical epics he sometimes toils in, such as GLADIATOR and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, but BLACK RAIN is a crisp, masterfully-helmed macho crime thriller that, in the wrong hands, would be just another cornball 80s action movie. The set-up is as predictable as the sun rise, but Scott is such a skilled engineer that the movie vibrates with tension and energy.
It's always best to heat up your money before you eat it...
The film's other major asset is its cast, led by Michael Douglas, who, sometimes it's hard to recall, was a major badass in this genre. Doing his too-cool-for-school schtick, but with the subtle touch of mania lurking beneath the surface that allows you to think he's two seconds away from flipping the f*ck out, Douglas plays Nick Conklin, a borderline ethic-less New York cop recovering from a scandal involving pocketing some drug money. Along with his trusty partner Charlie (Andy Garcia, youthful and cocky), Nick happens to witness the murder of an elderly Japanese criminal at the hands of an upstart Yakuza gangster named Sato (Yusaki Matsuda), whom the duo quickly apprehends. The consequences of their arrest, however, are larger than they had anticipated. Sato must be extradited to Japan for prosecution, and the New York cops must bring him there.
What follows is a dark tour of Tokyo as the fish-out-f-water officers must recapture the villain (he gets away almost immediately after they arrive in Japan) while simultaneously attempting to conform to the foreign culture's way of doing things. Their guide in the surreal city is Masihiro, a stoic, honorable man unused to the unconventional ways of the American cops - whose presence is not exactly welcomed by the Japanese brass.
Andy wasn't sure if he should, but he wanted to hop on the back of that bike and hold on tight sooo bad...
BLACK RAIN is a true 80s cop thriller in many ways – not only is it a buddy movie, it's actually two buddy movies: Initially, Nick and his partner Charlie, and later, Nick and the traditional Masahiro. Douglas, all crazy-eyed intensity (no one furiously screams “Jesus Christ!” quite like him), is a stark contrast to basically any companion, really. He's screen presence is so strong in this picture that it's a miracle the other characters even stand a chance up against him - but they do. The genius move with Garcia's character is that he's not the polar opposite of Nick, as is usually what the genre dictates. Charlie is nearly as loose of a cannon as Nick is. (Which he ultimately pays for.) It's left to the quiet Masahiro to be a sound voice of reason, and he calmly plays of off Douglas' frequent wildness wonderfully.
Sir Ridley is the other star here; his gift for cold visual elegance has rarely been so pronounced, and the slickness of BLACK RAIN certainly brings to mind BLADE RUNNER, which of course also had a particular Japanese influence. There aren't as many directors as technically competent as Scott, and his special knack for of staging violence is on display often. He's a master of the tricky craft of the dramatic thriller, and BLACK RAIN is a knockout.
BLACK RAIN theatrical trailer!
TOP ACTION: The climactic battle between Nick and the insane Sato is a dirty, face-beating, body-slamming thing of filthy beauty.
TOP DEATH: An unexpected beheading is one of the movie's most shocking moments – and easily one of its best sequences.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Kate Capshaw shows up in a fairly unnecessary role; she's simply there to provide the form of a lady to offset all the testosterone pouring off the edges of the screen. Not that I'm complaining, mind...
TOP DIALOGUE: Nick: “I usually get kissed, before I get fucked.”
Nick again: “Sometimes you gotta forget your head and grab your balls.”
TRIVIA: Yusaki Matsuda, who plays the villain Sato, died of cancer the same year BLACK RAIN came out.
Michael Douglas is an avid motorcycle enthusiast, and did all of his own riding in the film.
DRINKING GAME: Chug some saki every time Douglas or Garcia calls someone “babe”. Happens way more often that you'd anticipate - so much so that you'll be exported from your own country by day's end.