THE STORY: A corrupt American cop (Michael Douglas) and his partner (Andy Garcia) wind-up in Japan after a prisoner exchange gone awry. With their former captive cutting a swath through the local Yakuza in an attempt to establish himself as the new Tokyo boss, the cops are forced into an uneasy alliance with a by-the-book local police inspector (Ken Takakura).
THE PLAYERS: Starring: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw and Yusaku Matsuda. Ridley Scott directed the film. The music was composed by Hans Zimmer.
THE HISTORIC: In 1989, Michael Douglas had a great year. After his Oscar win for Wall St and Fatal attraction boffo box-office, Douglas was considered to be one of the most bankable Hollywood actors. Opting for a rare action role, grittier and more hard-edged than his turns in Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, Douglas, with his Fatal Attraction producers Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing (who would soon run Paramount Pictures), hired Ridley Scott, then on a career downswing following Legend and Someone to Watch Over Me, to helm this stylish East-meets-West thriller, which would shoot on-location in Japan.I remember when Ridley showed us the first cut of the movie it was about two hours and forty minutes, and it was extraordinary… But, this was his first cut, and so we all new that he was going to go in and make the film under two hours. I mean, when Ridley showed us the first cut of the film, it was about two hours and forty minutes, and it was extraordinary… But, this was his first cut, so we all knew that he would go in and make the film under two hours. Ridley then called us back four weeks later, and showed us an hour-and-fifty minute movie. We asked him, “what’s the deal?” He replied, “I had to,” and it was true, he had no choice but to remove some of the best scenes and textures in the film to keep it under two hours. It was a modest success despite Douglas’s star power and the critical acclaim. It grossed $46 million, decent enough numbers for the era, but it wound-up grossing far less than comparable action movies of the time, although worldwide it was a solid hit, grossing an additional $88 million, while it also became a hot rental on the VHS market.
Black Rain remains popular among aficionados of eighties action cinema, with it remaining Michael Douglas’s one real attempt to make an action-movie on par with what Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were doing at the time. It was sandwiched between Douglas’s most well-known films, BasicInstinct
, another huge hit a few years after, and came along at a time when Ridley Scott had a lull in his career. Michael Douglas is excellent in his role as an anti-hero. It’s not surprising that Nick Conklin is allowed to be sleazy, even if the motorcycle race he is introduced in is a bit overdone to make him look like a rebel. Nick Conklin is under investigation by the police for being on the take. While he would be vindicated if another actor played him, we find out early that Nick is guilty. He is also shown to be racist, making derogatory remarks about the Japanese and often screwing his own investigation up with a mix of ego and foolishness. This all leads to his partner, Andy Garcia, being killed. This bothered me so I called him and asked, “have you been to Japan?” Silence..no.” Then, a few weeks after, it was nominated in Japan for the best foreign film. Ridley was given a great compliment by a respected critic who said “this is the best Japanese movie I’ve seen in this year.” Michael Douglas (BLACKRAIN DVD) Before you think Nick is unlikable, Douglas gives him three-dimensionality, so that we can see that he is a good person, even though he may not be too far from the baddies who he chases. His evolution in the film is convincing. His relationship with Ken Takakura, a more honorable Japanese policeman who is also a victim of Japan’s rigid class system, is touching. Douglas initially treats him like a joke, but he comes to realize Takakura (who’s one of the biggest stars in Japanese history – on the level of someone like Chow Yun-Fat in Hong Kong) is truly on his side, and an honorable man.Meanwhile, Yusaku Matsuda’s bad guy is among the scarier ones of the eighties, sporting a crazed look and sense of sadism. Matsuda, unbeknownst of the filmmakers and Douglas at the time, was terminally ill. He put his all into the role, knowing that it was going to be his last. Ridley Scott, whose style is atypical, injects Black rain, which one would assume he would rely on to get the job done. His vision of Tokyo is almost as futuristic and hard-edged as Los Angeles in
Black rain . His eye, combined with Jan De Bont’s cinematography, makes this film one of the best action films ever made. Even as a young child, I knew Andy Garcia would die from watching Black Rain
. As an action-junkie, you almost look forward when the partner dies because it will kick the hero in high gear. It’s because Garcia is so charismatic and likable, singing Ray Charles and busting Douglas’s balls with Takakura, who apparently loved Garcia off screen, that you want him through. You know, people ask me all the time in my career what is my favorite movie. I’d have to say that
ranks right up there in terms of the unique qualities, the execution, and the overall quality of the film. – Michael Douglas, (BLACK RAIN dvd) PARTING SHOOT:Black Rain was another entry into this article that many of you might remember seeing when it first came out. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I encourage you to watch it again. It holds up very well. Do you like Ridley Scott or Hans Zimmer, for those readers who haven’t heard of them? If yes, you will love this.