Librarians. They aim to test you with their knowledge of literature, art and film. Asking the local librarian for a bad to average film to watch for a blog update was risky. I now have to accept the risk I took.
From the opening credits and sequence we are introduced to our hero Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) who in 1980’s machoism sets himself up as a hero by having a motorbike race on the streets of New York with a local thug. Conklin is a cop but not just any cop, he’s the cop that doesn’t play by the rules. Now, that’s refreshing to see in cinema. The late 1980’s wasn’t kind to people and director Ridley Scott was also victim to that decade’s fingerpoint of low quality films. Looking at Black Rain it has on the nose dialogue and corny cop speak such as “That’s my collar, he’s mine.”
The story revolves around Douglas’s Conklin and his young partner here played by Andy Garcia. They witness a double homicide in New York and capture the Japanese gangster murderer. They end up escorting the gangster back to Osaka where they mistakenly handover the criminal not to the local cops but to gangsters disguised as cops. The film’s plot is so transparent, we know where it’s heading the minute the credits rolled up. For example when Cronklin loses the gangster, he has to go into bravado “I let myself down, the wrong must be corrected, it’ll be resolved when he’s captured” mode. The rest of the film we watch Douglas in character mouth off playing tough cop knowing he has few friends in town and continues to isolate himself.
We know Ridley Scott as a masterful director in this decade for Alien and Blade Runner, here he channels the same cinematography and design of Blade Runner to help Black Rain but the film is still bleak. Japan is portrayed as a dark city that just gets darker. Perhaps Scott just needed a few pennies in his wallet and didn’t care about the script.
Watching Black Rain I couldn’t help but think that I was watching an extended TV special of NYPD Blue. The film’s story wasn’t big enough for cinema. Back in 1989 a film ticket would have cost $7.00, buy something else. I swear Michael Bay paid a movie ticket and watched and rewatched this film to learn his own directing craft.
I learnt two things in this film, to be a cop in this type of world, one can solve any crime with anger, machoism and have an odd breakdown. Secondly having 80’s synth music in your end action sequence will save the picture from a one star review. If the film is ever to get remade I can imagine someone like Tom Hardy, Russell Crowe or even Robert Downing Jr play the lead. Let’s hope Hollywood doesn’t go into remake mode anytime soon.
Michael Douglas as Nick Conklin
Andy Garcia as Charlie Vincent
Ken Takakura as Masahiro Matsomudo