Ridley Scott is to the action/adventure genre what Martin Scorsese is to the crime drama, or what Wes Anderson is to the dramedy. He is a master. I love ‘Aliens,’ and I love ‘Gladiator,’ but I am in love with ‘Blade Runner.’ He is a misunderstood artist that fills his palate with the colors that will make the most of his canvas. The screenplay is lurid and gritty and surreal, and conveys a teeth clenching gnashing of cultures. Now, for those of you that know nothing about me, I love Michael Douglas, which is probably why I was lavished with this most generous gift in the first place. He is a fantastic actor in any role, as he has proved time and time again with his eclectic repertoire. Big enough shoes were never conceived that his feet could not fill.
Strangely enough though, the actors are not what made this movie. The characters are upstaged by their environment. Here we have Osaka, the best and most original rendition I’ve ever seen in cinema. Osaka serves as the big, yet claustrophobic fish tank for the small fish that are crushed under the weight of all the other fish swimming about. ‘Blade Runner’ definitely came to mind all throughout and was written all over it. The futuristic Los Angeles left its mark on the suffocating atmosphere of the looming, Yakuza-infested city
New York detective Nick Conklin (Douglas) and his partner Charlie Vincent (Garcia), while minding their own business in a Manhattan restaurant, witness the slaying of two Japanese gangsters seated at a cattycorner table. After catching and arresting the Japanese gangster responsible for the slaughter, the two officers are ordered to escort the killer back to Osaka to be put on trial. Strangled in the grimy underbelly of the Japanese neon wilderness, they incompetently hand their prisoner over to two of his fellow gangsters disguised as cops, losing him in the hustle and bustle of the airport. Meeting up and joining forces with Matsu (Takakura), an Osaka detective, the two New York officers begin their journey into an unfamiliar world to play an all too familiar game of cat and mouse. Under investigation by the internal affairs division, an ill tempered, divorced, and disillusioned Nick Conklin bears the weight of chiseling into the system with his questionable ethics in order to recapturing his lost perpetrator who is a self-destructive mobster after the heads of his superiors.
The film is elegant and offending at the same time. While there are elements of a virtuoso of imagery and atmosphere, the actual scenes feel hollow and sometimes gaudy. There are motorcycle chases, and foot races, and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns. Scott even manages to shoehorn in a panoramic summit meeting of the Yakuza in the fiery dungeon of a steel mill. Fuckin’ A! Luckily the movie takes a break from the Geisha clichés with the supporting role of Kate Capshaw who provides insight into the Yakuza mob ring. Imagine that.
This is an exciting movie with incredible and expensive production design. I tend to overlook plot holes when it comes to thrillers, as did Alfred Hitchcock, coining the term “refrigerator thriller.” I blame it on the mere fact that life is too short. What we have here is an adrenal movie with a lot of look and a lot of cheek. ‘Black Rain’ astonishingly upholds its gloom motif, capitalizing on gunmetal, rain-swept concrete, and the dank hues of the nightlife illuminated by the neon signs hung tantalizingly over the plague of houses of ill repute. This probably is not a film for everybody, but it definitely makes for a fun, ‘black rainy’ day.