Black Rain Reviews
Still, Ridley Scott's direction and Jan de Bont's serviceable cinematography of Osaka Japan really fit the noir tone like a glove.
Worth a look, give it a rental.
performance from Michael Douglas. Underrated to a degree!
The story is centred around Japan and the Yakuza. Conklin (Michael Douglas) is your standard gruff, rebellious cop with family issues, who also has no time for little things like rules and regulations. His partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), is his opposite and much more down to earth, calmer and generally more approachable, he tends to keep Conklin in check. The duo witness a murder by Yakuza gangsters and manage to capture their leader, its now up to this polar opposite duo to escort their prisoner back to Japan and hand him over to the authorities there. Naturally once they arrive the bad guy escapes via a blunder by the American duo and now they have to track him down through the Japanese neon lit underworld.
OK so first off its very clear that Ridley carried on with his 'Blade Runner' vision in this movie, heck this could even be a sequel of sorts, visually. Everything looks very familiar in this thriller, the streets of Osaka are dark (often at night), always neon lit and often rain soaked. There always seems to be plumes of smoke swirling around as the two officers run around, every shot inside a building seems to have silhouettes of blinds against a blue night sky, shadows of ceiling fans (lots of shadows in general), lots of reflections on glass, street steam or smoke, lots of discreet blue-collar eating establishments and of course loads of various neon lighting. This whole movie seems to set in a very murky, sodden Japan where the sun never shines and every building interior is a dimly lit office, with flashing neon signs being the only view through the venetian blinded windows. That's not a bad thing of course, hell no, its a Ridley movie and its all looks as slick as an oil spill. The problem is we saw all that in his replicant chase movie, plus that whole noir angle isn't exactly original, but I guess Ridley set the bar with the genre so...
I do love the character of Conklin though, or at least his look. I've never been a huge fan of Douglas because he kinds looks like a narrow eyed, slimy creep to me, but here he nails the role. The movies poster says it all really, it almost looks like a manga comic cover, it has a very strong graphic novel vibe about it if you ask me, really striking. The pose, the shades, the colour palette and the blurry Japanese neon signed street image behind Douglas, it all looks very bold, very sleek, imaginative and ultimately, oddly futuristic. This Conklin guy is a typical 80's badass, the stereotypical unshaven, trench coat wearing, unkempt anti-hero. He doesn't give a shit about procedure, he'll bend the rules to get his man and he's clearly a bit of a male chauvinist. On the flip side Garcia simply hams up his Italian American heritage by playing the most corny Italian American ever, and he's virtually done the same thing his whole career.
It interesting to see how hero/anti-hero characters have changed over the years. These days its all muscles and martial arts, who's the most buff, who's got the biggest biceps etc...its all very vain and disgustingly wholesome. Back in the day these characters were more mean and moody, dirty, they smoked, they swore, they drank, they had wiry frames, and maybe slapped the odd female around for good luck (not saying that's good). They were just more gritty realistic badasses, God how I miss them!
The Japanese cast are of course epic as Japanese actors normally are, there are many familiar faces here from the chiefs to the henchmen (Al Leong anyone), and they are all perfect in their roles. Sure we've seen Yakuza and gangsters portrayed on screen a gazillion times before, but the Japanese actors are so disciplined and scarily realistic in their performances, they nail it every time. In all honesty though, despite the great performances, stunning location work and Ridley's eye for artistic detail, the movie is actually quite dull to be honest. It really does play out very much like 'Blade Runner' with Conklin meandering around various well lit locations tracking down his prey. He has lots of angry conversations with his fellow Japanese officers in various locales (he's an angry kinda guy), he munches on noodle meals in smokey neon lit locales with his fellow Japanese officers (well mainly Ken Takakura), he talks to blonde dames in dark moody neon lit locations (Kate Capshaw), and he drives around the city...at night...with lost of reflections of neon signs everywhere.
Things only tend to get exciting when Conkers finds his way into a steel foundry (which literately gave Ridley carte blanche to go nuts with lots of shiny, glossy, steam soaked imagery) and there's a shootout and chase. Then the big finale sees two Yakuza gangs and Conkers n co all going ballistic with an even bigger shootout. These days its nothing spectacular lets be honest, back in the day these final showdowns in quirky places were the bread n butter of action flicks. Every action thriller had a big final shootout somewhere unusual with lots of henchmen getting nailed and then finally the main boss getting nailed by the hero (see 'Beverly Hills Cop'). And in all honesty this isn't even a great final action sequence, the motorbike chase was pretty cool and the way Conklin looks like he's gonna kill the main villain but doesn't is a nice little twist, but they ruin it with the cringeworthy vomit-inducing award ceremony.
Its an odd beast this, a pretty standard action cop thriller but made with Ridley Scott's exquisite attention to detail and lavish visuals. Its too much like Ridley's previous works really, we know about the visuals but even the musical score has eerily similar elements to 'Alien' at times, not to mention the steel foundry sequence which felt like a combined scene from 'Alien' and 'Alien 3' (curious huh). It is a solid movie but at the same time it feels too self-indulgent, Ridley clearly couldn't stop himself from doing more 'Blade Runner' stuff which just feels too much of the same thing. End of the day its just a simple action thriller, it didn't really need all the sheen and polish because we can all see its just a simple action thriller underneath all that gloss. Kudos to Ridley for going the extra mile and really making another visual gem, but I don't think this is his best genre.