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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Gangster > Black Rain - Special Collector's Edition (DVD-Video)

Black Rain - Special Collector's Edition (DVD-Video)


Picture: B  †† Sound: B-  †† Extras: B+  †† Film: B



Every once in a while, Siskel & Ebert would have a show they'd call We Blew It, where each critic would examine a couple of films he initially didn't recommend, but came to like upon repeat viewings.  I blew it on Ridley Scott's Black Rain, a film that I dismissed as mediocre when I first saw it in September of 1989.  However, after two subsequent viewings on DVD, I have come to think Black Rain is much better than I initially gave it credit for.


In retrospect, I think part of the problem was that Scott's film came out only four years after Michael Cimino's electrifying Year of the Dragon (1985), which I had watched again just a few months prior to seeing Black Rain.  Both films are about an embittered New York City cop who finds himself in an increasingly personal war with an upstart Asian gangster -- Year of the Dragon concerns the Chinese mob and Black Rain concerns the Japanese Yakuza.  But I think I unfairly penalized Black Rain when I first saw it mainly because it didn't measure up to Cimino's incredibly gutsy crime thriller.


In some ways, it still plays like a more commercial variation of the superior Year of the Dragon, but Black Rain has aged nicely, and is a strong film in its own right.


Reuniting with his Fatal Attraction producers, Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing, Michael Douglas stars in Black Rain as a troubled NYC police detective named Nick Conklin.  He's somewhat of a rebel within the department, riding a motorcycle everywhere and always looking like he just crawled out of bed.  He also has an ex-wife and children to support, which is putting him in a financial hole.


Nick's habit of illegally taking a little money on the side to make ends meet has him under investigation by internal affairs.  He's the proverbial cop on the edge.


One day, after witnessing a member of the Yakuza execute two other Japanese men right in the middle of a crowded NYC steakhouse, Nick and his loyal partner, Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), chase and apprehend the killer.  Turns out the killer is an arrogant young Yakuza lieutenant named Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), who's in a power struggle with an older Yakuza boss. 


Nick and Charlie are assigned to deliver Sato to the authorities in Japan, but Sato's Yakuza associates engineer his escape right after their plane touches down in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Not wanting to accept defeat, Nick stays in Osaka in hopes of re-capturing Sato, but him and Charlie are told they're merely to be "observers" and must relinquish their firearms.


The fish-out-of-water American cops are teamed with an uptight Japanese detective (Ken Takakura), who believes in doing things by the book, which leads to an interesting culture clash pitting the American sense of individuality versus the Japanese emphasis on the importance of the group.


Nick also meets an American hostess of a Japanese nightclub (Kate Capshaw), who gives him information, but still seems like an unnecessary character.  Also unnecessary is a sequence where Garcia and Takakura sing a Ray Charles song in the nightclub that's too obviously manufactured comic relief in an otherwise intense thriller.


Black Rain -- the title refers to the black precipitation that fell from the skies in Japan after America dropped the two atomic bombs to end World War II -- is a stylish and atmospheric tale of revenge and redemption that might have been taken for granted by some of us back in 1989, but would be one of the better films of the year if released today.  The film is also noteworthy for Jan De Bontís gorgeous cinematography, Hans Zimmer's pulse-pounding musical score and another interesting interpretation of a deeply flawed character by Douglas.


Paramount's new Special Collector's Edition of Black Rain is quite special indeed. The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX and 2.0 Surround sound.  Special features include an insightful feature-length audio commentary by Ridley Scott (this one is actually worth a listen); four featurettes about the making of the film with newly recorded retrospective interviews with Scott, Douglas, Garcia, Capshaw, Jaffe, Lansing, De Bont and Zimmer; and the original theatrical trailer.  The only thing missing is deleted scenes.  Scott's first cut of the film supposedly ran about 160 minutes, and the final cut runs 125 minutes, so you'd think there'd be some excised footage somewhere.



-†† Chuck O'Leary


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