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BLACK RAIN
Special Collector's Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw
Director: Ridley Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2006

“Sugai-san, I am the solution…to your problems.”

Film **

When you have a director at the caliber of Ridley Scott, you know the movie is going to have something of value to it. Scott, whose outstanding track record has earned him the appropriate status of a filmmaker of epic proportions, hasn’t made anything close to a bad film in his career. Though every great filmmaker will have one or two slight setbacks in their career. For Scott, one of those films is Black Rain.

The film is a marvel of a production, as only a director like Scott can bring to life. The style and atmosphere is undeniable from beginning to end. To make a formula cops against bad guys scenario and have it take place in such a setting as Japan is something to be said for any filmmaker from the Hollywood mainstream.

The problem with Black Rain is the story itself is not all that exciting and gripping as the style surrounding it.

The plot involves the following; Michael Douglas is Nick Conklin (didn’t Douglas go on to play a cop named Nick Curran in a little film called Basic Instinct?); an NYC detective with a suspected past captures a Japanese gangster after witnessing him commit a gruesome double murder. He and his partner, Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), are assigned to escort the criminal back to Japan. When they arrive, the two cops hand him over to a group of men appearing to be cops, only to discover moments later that they’re the killer’s own crew.

As they’ve been clearly duped, Nick and Charlie set out a manhunt on the streets of Osaka to nab the killer, only this time the American cops have to play by the rules of Japanese law enforcement. They are partnered with a veteran cop named Matsumoto (Ken Takakura), who of course has to get use to Nick’s wise-ass American-style cop routine.

That’s basically all there is to the plot of Black Rain. Although later we learn a secret about the Douglas character, nothing else much is original. It’s basically a routine cop thriller that happens to take place in an entirely different kind of setting.

But thanks to the craft of Ridley Scott, we are treated to quite an atmospheric looking film. Scott and his crew apply such a grim look to the run down streets of Osaka, so much so that it isn’t too far off from the grim look of Scott’s futuristic L.A. setting of Blade Runner. The level of style here is at times so riveting that it just about comes close to saving the movie. Had the story not been so predictable and by the numbers, we might’ve had another Ridley Scott masterpiece on our hands.

Another good quality in the film is the supporting performance from Andy Garcia as Douglas’ cocky partner. Garcia, a rising star at the time, has a lot of fun with the role and injects a level of enthusiasm that the film is really in need of. Too bad his character is killed off way too soon, because the fun of the movie went away with him. It may have seemed as if I just spoiled something I shouldn’t have, but should it really come as a surprise that the cocky partner gets axed? Don’t think so.

So while this film was indeed a hit when it was released and I’m sure has its share of fans, it simply doesn’t begin to compare with the superior work that Ridley Scott has made in his lengthy career as a filmmaker. In my honest viewpoint, and for all it’s splendid production qualities, Black Rain belongs in the limited group of Scott’s setbacks along with G.I. Jane and Hannibal and not in the same league as that of Alien, Blade Runner, White Squall, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and Kingdom of Heaven.

Video ***

Although I never did see the movie in its first outing on DVD, I do know that this time around, the picture has been given the anamorphic treatment. The result is a decent enough looking presentation for a late 80s pic. The grim setting comes off quite nicely in the picture, though there are early instances of noticeable grain, which keep it from the level of excellence. Still, the all around presentation is acceptable enough.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 EX sound mix does add some intense bang to the movie. The sound plays off both the action scenes and Hans Zimmer’s pulse pounding score terrifically. Dialogue delivery is also clear as can be.

Features ***1/2

Ridley Scott has become a prime example of a filmmaker who embraces DVD with just about each of his films, and for this Special Collector’s Edition, the extras do not disappoint. Included is a commentary by Ridley Scott, and four featurettes; “Black Rain The Script, The Cast”, “Making The Film: Part 1”, “Making The Film: Part 2”, “Black Rain Post Production” and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Black Rain delivers in the area of style but offers very little thrills in the story department. There’s no doubt that Ridley Scott’s directing is the saving grace of the film, but at the same time you can’t help but realize that he’s capable of something far superior.

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