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Ridley Scott
Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw
Writing Credits:
Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis

Two NYC cops arrest a Yakuza member and must escort him when he's extradited to Japan.

Box Office:
$14 million.
Opening Weekend
$9.677 million on 1610 screens.
Domestic Gross
$45.645 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
English DTS 6.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 6/3/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Ridley Scott
• “The Script, The Cast” Featurette
• “Making the Film” Featurettes
• “Post-Production” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Black Rain [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 22, 2017)

From director Ridley Scott, 1989’s Black Rain introduces us to Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas), a divorced, motorcycle-loving, hotheaded New York detective. While at a bar with fellow cop Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), they witness a confrontation between Japanese mobsters that results in killings. Nick and Charlie chase down and apprehend the murderer, Sato Koji (Yusaku Matsuda).

The international nature of the case involves various embassies and results in extradition to Japan. Nick and Charlie get the assignment to escort Sato back to that country.

This simple task immediately goes awry when baddies impersonate the local cops and take custody of Sato. Obviously this creates complications, and after some argument, the Japanese authorities allow the Americans to get involved in the case as "interested observers".

Along with Assistant Inspector Matsumoto Masahiro (Ken Takakura) to help, Nick and Charlie launch their own attempt to recover the missing Sato. They learn how deep all the issues run within the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia. The film follows Nick’s stubborn attempt to apprehend Sato and his conflicts within the Japanese system.

Rain stands as a pretty standard cop flick with a twist. That’s probably the most interesting aspect of the movie, as the “culture clash” helps create something a little different. However, the spice added by the Japanese settings and the conflict between the Americans and the Japanese only goes so far, as that side of things doesn’t do a lot to spice up the usual fare.

Indeed, it also gives the movie something of an arrogant feel. The title implies depth among the various participants since we learn that “black rain” was what the Japanese called the poison brought by the Americans in WWII. We can draw the analogy to see our American characters as “black rain” and figure that the movie will depict how they grow and better understand Japanese culture.

That doesn’t happen, as the clash remains doggedly one-sided. Basically Nick does things his way and barely changes to appreciate the Japanese attitudes. The movie gives him a token move in that direction but usually displays the Japanese as stubborn bureaucrats who worry more about appearances than they do the pursuit of justice.

Perhaps I’ve confused it with another film, but back when Rain came out, I believe it inspired some criticisms about racism. I can see why that happened, as the Japanese never come across as efficient or useful. The only Japanese character who does anything right is the one who eventually adopts American methods.

Couldn’t they have come up with a better solution? Did the movie have to slant things so strongly toward the American “can-do” spirit and so totally denigrate other options? I guess the filmmakers didn’t think so, which means we end up with the Japanese as by-the-book stooges.

Rain might have overcome these issues with a richer story or more evocative characters. Instead, the participants remain pretty one-dimensional, and Nick is usually unlikable to boot.

I realize that some of this was intentional, but it’s meant to make us better appreciate Nick’s journey and redemption. Those never really occur, so we just continue to view our lead as an arrogant jerk.

Scott gives the entire movie a very “80s beer commercial” feel, a factor that makes it dated and too obsessed with visual slickness. That’s a criticism often leveled at Scott through his career, but usually he backs up the pretty pictures with some meat.

Here the cinematographer and visual design exist in a vacuum, as we never get drawn into the story. It’s the definition of style over substance.

This leaves Black Rain as a perfunctory cop flick with a minor twist due to its Japanese setting. The movie uses that side of things as a gimmick more than anything else and never truly explores it. Rain looks good but fails to present an interesting or involving drama.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Black Rain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While parts of the film looked very good, the transfer came with some nagging concerns.

Sharpness varied but usually appeared positive, as the majority of the film exhibited nice delineation. However, wide shots could be a little off, and the presence of light edge haloes created some distractions.

I saw no shimmering or jaggies, but I suspect the image got more noise reduction than I’d like, as the movie could seem more “smoothed-out” than I’d expect. Print flaws remained minor; I saw a couple of defects like a hair that pooped up early, but most of the film seemed clean.

Colors went with a highly stylized palette that mixed amber, orange, blue and purple much of the time. The hues came across with good clarity, as they reproduced the source well. Blacks were dark and dense, and shadows showed the material nicely. Without the edge haloes and other processing issues, this would’ve been a great presentation.

The Blu-ray provided both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS 6.1 soundtracks. I thought the pair seemed largely similar – I’d give the nod to the DTS track due to a higher bit rate, but the absence of a lossless option meant the audio didn’t fulfill its potential.

Even so, I thought the soundtracks held up well after 28 years. Music dominated the soundfield, as the mix used the score in an aggressive way across all the speakers. For some movies, that might cause distractions, but here it worked well within the tale’s parameters. The active music made sense for the story and fit the action.

Effects also helped create a nice sense of atmosphere and became involving when necessary. Usually they stayed in the realm of ambience, but they spread out well and turned more active during some of the action scenes. In particular, motorcycles zoomed around the room. The soundfield opened up matters in a satisfying and realistic way.

Audio quality also seemed positive. Although speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, lines remained intelligible and acceptably concise.

Effects sounded clean and tight, with good range involved, and music presented especially solid information. The score was bright and dynamic, and bass response appeared surprisingly full and deep. I thought the audio of Rain worked well for the flick, even though I would’ve preferred a lossless option.

How did the DVD compare to the DVD from 2006? Given the aforementioned absence of a lossless track, audio remained essentially the same. The higher bitrate DTS track worked a smidgen better than the Dolby Digital track – which duplicated the audio from the DVD – but I can’t claim this became a clear step up in quality.

Visuals offered somewhat superior material, mainly due to the stronger format capabilities of Blu-ray. This meant improved sharpness and color reproduction. However, the presence of the small flaws meant the Blu-ray didn’t beat the DVD as much as I’d like – it’s better but not a radical improvement.

The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras, and these start with an audio commentary from director Ridley Scott. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion.

Scott begins with notes about why he came onto the project and then digs into the nuts and bolts of the production. He discusses shooting in New York and Japan, actors’ relationships and the atmosphere on the set, cinematography and working with his DP, music and audio, production design and editing, stunts, and other production issues.

Some of the commentary’s best parts come from its most general. When Scott chats about his various preferences for working on a movie, the chat becomes a terrific lesson in filmmaking.

The director mixes these more general thoughts with specifics about Rain in a fluid manner. Scott usually offers good commentaries, and this is one of his best.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a multi-part documentary. Black Rain: The Script, The Cast starts things with a 20-minute, 23-second program.. We hear from Scott, screenwriter/executive producer Craig Bolotin, screenwriter Warren Lewis, actor/producer Michael Douglas, producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe, costume designer Ellen Mirojnik, and actors Andy Garcia and Kate Capshaw.

The show looks at the story’s origins and development, what attracted various parties to the project, how Scott came onto the film, and casting, characters and performances. “Script” covers the pre-production basics well. It offers a tight little look at the issues and benefits from the presence of so many principals.

Next we get Black Rain: Making the Film. Part One of this goes for 28 minutes, 39 seconds, while Part Two fills nine minutes, 16 seconds. “Making” includes notes from Scott, Lansing, Douglas, Garcia, Jaffe, Capshaw, Mirojnick, Lewis, Bolotin, director of photography Jan De Bont, and actor Ken Takakura (from 1989).

“Making” examines issues related to the multi-national crew and different locations, Scott’s working and planning methods, the actors’ research, set and photography specifics, complications in Japan, costumes, some story and character points, stunts, and various scene specifics.

“Making” continues our journey through the production with lots more good information. Inevitably, some of this repeats from Scott’s excellent commentary, but the additional participants help bring out new perspectives and details. “Making” goes through the subjects well and entertains as it informs.

Finally, Black Rain: Post-Production runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds and features Scott, Douglas, Garcia, Lansing, Jaffe, Capshaw, editor Tom Rolf, and composer Hans Zimmer. We learn about editing, music, reactions to the film, and final thoughts about the flick.

“Post-Production” offers a good close to this series of featurettes. It throws out nice details about the various processes and fills in the gaps. All of these components add up to make a solid look at the creation of Rain.

While Black Rain always looks great, the movie fails to ever engage the viewer. It uses clichés and one-dimensional characters without substance and doesn’t manage to ever become anything more than a predictable cop drama. The Blu-ray brings us mostly good picture and audio along with informative supplements. Black Rain hasn’t aged well and it remains a lackluster cop flick.

To rate this film visit the original review of BLACK RAIN

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