Douglas Keeps His Head
From a simple entertainment point of view "Black Rain" is just average, you could almost say cliche with a cop who skirts the edges of being dirty. In fact whilst it stars Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia the best thing about "Black Rain" is Ridley's Scott's direction as he delivers wonderful visuals. But get beyond the simple entertainment and "Black Rain" is a movie with a touch of depth, it has a character in need of redemption and has an opportunity to get it on different levels. If you pick up on this then "Black Rain" becomes more than cliche but it is easy to miss and if you so then you are just left with a beautifully styled Ridley Scott movie.
After New York Cop Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas - Wall Street) and his partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia - The Untouchables) arrest Sato (Y没saku Matsuda), a member of the Yakuza who they witness murder another man they are less than happy to be told they are too escort him back to Japan and hand him over to the authorities. But when their plane touches down in Japan Sato manages to escape and whilst with no jurisdiction in a foreign country Nick feels it is his job to track him down and arrest him. Unfortunately for Nick not only do the Japanese not want his help they lump with a straight-lace chaperone in Masahiro (Ken Takakura) and Nick soon discovers that Sato is more deadly than he initially realised.
After the start where we are introduced to Nick it is easy to see "Black Rain" as being a cliche cop buddy movie as we have the edgy Nick and the more relaxed Charlie. Add in the fact we have Nick having a rough time from Internal Affairs who suspect he is on the make and things certainly look very normal. Although having said that when we witness Sato murder a man in a restaurant it certainly feels more aggressive than other detective movies from the late 80s.
What follows whilst entertaining also immediately feels cliche as Nick and Charlie have to escort Sato back to Japan and it is not a huge surprise when not only does Nick end up hitting him on the flight but they end up losing him as they touch down in Japan. Again it continues to feel very ordinary as Nick and Charlie having lost Sato want to recapture him but find not only the Japanese police not happy with them trying to be involved but they also assign a straight laced cop to chaperone them. But then something happens, something which initially feels quite predictable but has that element of aggression which we witnessed early on.
And this is where "Black Rain" does become good because with Nick under pressure from all angles he has a chance for redemption by getting Sato and bringing an end to the criminal activities which revolve around counterfeiting. We have this depth presented to us as Nick is a conflicted man, a man who is suffering financially back in America, who is suffering emotionally in Japan and feels like he has no help in a foreign country. If you don't pick up on the depth well what you end up getting is almost predictable action as Nick ends up going after Sato, Masahiro his chaperone gets in trouble for disobeying orders until we get a big climax which unsurprisingly feature motorbikes.
The saving grace to all of this especially if you don't pick up on the depth of Nick's character is that director Ridley Scott delivers a wonderfully visual movie. There are the action scenes, not a huge amount but all have this aggressive edge to them which even now seems a little shocking. But you also get a visual style, sun illuminating a room, dust particles flying through the air, it may not seem like much but this style makes it good.
Aside from the style well Michael Douglas is solid as Nick, it is by no means Douglas's greatest performance but he does deliver both the conflict of his character as well as the action hero part. Having said that there is the issue of big hair and Douglas's big hair certainly makes "Black Rain" a little cheesy. Aside from Douglas there is Andy Garcia who certainly delivers the relaxed attitude of Charlie but he is outshone by Ken Takakura as Masahiro who gives his character a sense of realism missing from both Nick and Charlie.
What this all boils down to is that "Black Rain" is a decent enough action thriller from the late 90s which mainly works as simple entertainment full of great styling from Ridley Scott. But get past what is really quite an ordinary storyline and there is some depth but you really need to be looking for it to find it.