Time: 125 Minutes
Michael Douglas as Nick Conklin
Andy García as Charlie Vincent
Ken Takakura as Masahiro Matsumoto
Kate Capshaw as Joyce
Yūsaku Matsuda as Koji Sato
Director: Ridley Scott
Nick (Michael Douglas) and his partner, Charlie (Andy Garcia), are New York City policemen who must track down Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), a Japanese gangster, who gives them the slip while being transported to Osaka for his murder trial.
I came across Black Rain at some point, I initially heard that it was a decent crime thriller starring Michael Douglas. Then I found out that Ridley Scott directed it so that got me interested in checking it out. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Black Rain, it is actually one of Ridley Scott’s more underrated movies, and it’s one worth checking out.
The plot of Black Rain is nothing too special despite some interesting turns here and there. Basically the main two characters must escort the dangerous Yakuza gangster to Osaka, Japan, they are dragged into the Japanese underworld where things are done much differently. Don’t go in expecting a whole lot other than that really. The dialogue is occasionally cliched for this genre, and the plot occasionally relies too much on the expected tropes of the genre. This is as 80s cheese as it could be, it can get silly and over the top at times. However Scott’s take on the “tough cop” action movies that were more than prominent throughout the 80s was a step above other cop thrillers in that period. It is probably worth knowing going in that Black Rain more of a straight thriller than a pure action flick, so don’t expect a massive amount of action. It is also paced on the slower side, and the movie is a tad too long. However it is a well structured movie with a great atmosphere, and that atmosphere goes a long way towards getting you invested.
There are some strong performances throughout. First of all there is Michael Douglas as the lead character of Nick Conklin, and this is the closest that Michael Douglas has been to leading an action movie. He plays a NYPD officer who plays by his own rules and the character is in many ways unlikeable and corrupt. However it works because the movie doesn’t try to make him more likable, Douglas adds a level of charm to the character (while not overdoing it), and he brings an intensity to the role. Andy Garcia is also good as his partner Charlie, offsetting Nick’s chaotic nature by being comparatively soft spoken and the voice of reason, and the two of them are quite believable as partners. Ken Takakura is also great as a sympathetic Japanese policeman who joins with the two to track down the Yakuza gangster. He has a great screen presence, and he shines from the moment he first appears till the end of the movie. The relationship between Douglas and Takakura is the heart of the movie and it was quite interesting see these two very different characters try to work towards the same goal. Yusaku Matsuda plays a yakuza boss, the scene chewing villain of the movie, and he is also great in every scene he is in.
Ridley Scott directs this, and his work here as a director is one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Strangely enough, it is so stylised that you might actually mistake this as a film from Tony Scott instead of one from Ridley. There’s an art to the cheesy 80s action flick, and Ridley seems to know it quite well. It is visually stunning, the cinematography from Jan De Bont is amazing. It particularly shines when it takes place at night. Ridley shoots much of the movie in the same way he did Blade Runner with the heavy focus on streets with fog and neon lights, and contains some of the dark cityscapes and industrial looks that film has as well. Black Rain isn’t loaded with non stop action, again it is more of a crime thriller than an action thriller. The few action sequences aren’t absolutely bonkers, but they are well executed, and you feel the thrills and suspense. Its use of slow motion is corny at times, but this actually works in the movie’s favour. The sound design is great, and the electronic and orchestral score by Hans Zimmer is top notch, really adding to the movie.
Black Rain is not one of Ridley Scott’s best movies, but it is one of his most underrated. The plot isn’t anything special, but it is elevated by the strong cast who give good performances here, and of course Scott’s stylish direction. So if you like 80s crime thrillers, you’ll definitely be on board with this movie.