Friday, July 4, 2014

Black Rain (Special Collector's Edition)

Black RainI'm not sure why this movie is described as a 'guilty pleasure'. I don't feel at all bad about liking it. And I do like it, a lot.

For one thing, I like Michael Douglas. I liked him thirty years ago in _The Streets of San Francisco_, I liked him even better after he turned _One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest_ from a great book and a great stage play into a great motion picture, and I've kept right on liking him every time he's gotten himself cast in a stylish, well-scripted film.

And this _is_ a stylish, well-scripted film. It's every bit as dark as you expect from Ridley Scott, and although there's a fairly well-defined villain, the 'heroes' are morally ambiguous. I like that in a movie.

The reviewers who say Michael Douglas's character Nick Conklin is an 'ugly American' are right, but they seem to have missed the fact that this is part of the point. This film is a fairly ambitious, though not terribly deep, attempt to bring off an East-meets-West theme in what looks superficially like just another buddy-cop movie. The 'black rain' of the title is one of the aftereffects of the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it's the symbolic stand-in for the Western 'decadence' bemoaned by the more traditional Nipponese (even the crime bosses).

But that doesn't mean Japan wins the dramatic argument. On the contrary, the Nipponese cop (played with endearing self-effacement by Ken Takakura) learns a few things from his new cowboy friend 'Nick-san' too. (And the karaoke scene with Takakura and Andy Garcia is priceless.)

Kate Capshaw doesn't really need an excuse to appear in a film, and that's good, because here she doesn't really have one. She's an expatriate American who inexplicably keeps turning up at the center of the action. She gives the film a bit of _Casablanca_-like flavor, but it's more a matter of mood than anything else.

I won't tell you anything about the plot except that it involves the Japanese underworld and that it zips along at a fast clip. Don't look away or you'll miss something.

The whole thing is rendered most atmospherically, with the sort of dark and brooding edge that I like in a film (and at which Ridley Scott excels). In general I'm not the biggest fan of Hans Zimmer's scores, but for the most part he's used pretty effectively here.

This is a first-rate action-adventure thriller, and I don't feel the slightest bit 'guilty' for taking a very great deal of pleasure in it.

I really enjoyed this when I watched it back at the cinema in 1989.Last year I found out that it was available on dvd and made the purchase without prior knowledge of the picture quality.The film still impresses me but I am very much disappointed with the picture quality,which is grainy and has fading color. It's a pity Paramount has overlooked this film.I am looking forward to seeing a SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION release which includes:an anamorphic widescreen transfer,a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX sound,English subtitle(the current one doesn't even have this standard feature!),audio commentary with Ridley Scott and/or Michael Douglas,interviews,or other featurettes of the film. What do you say PARAMOUNT ?

Buy Black Rain (Special Collector's Edition) Now

Before I review Black Rain, let me tell you that I agree with some of the previous reviewers that the picture quality of this DVD (its better on VHS) is totally unacceptable. When I first watched it, I had to check my cable connections to make sure they weren't at fault. What a let-down. Mr. Scott should be raising hell over this.

With that said, this is one of my favorite action movies. It portrays Detective Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) as an outgoing, old-school cop who takes moral short-cuts to get the job done. His partner, a relatively new Detective (Andy Garcia) is along for the ride. They have a run-in with a Japanese mobster (Yakuza) named Sato. After arresting Sato for commiting two murders in a New York restaurant, the Detectives are ordered to escort him back to Japan to face charges there. They manage to let Sato escape as he arrives in Japan. A Japanese Detective (Ken Takarara) is assigned to help out the New York Detectives.

Douglas, Garcia and Takarara are excellenty cast in their respective roles. The screenplay is well written. I must say that the cinematography is really good. Japan, the once-conquered nation, is now an industrial powerhouse. But, like the U.S., it suffers from the ills of corruption and violence. Ridley Scott does a great job of showing the tension between the two cultures. The Japanese, "bound by duty and honor", and the Americans, loud and outspoken, are viewed as somewhat obnoxious by their counterparts. The musical score is incredible. Hans Zimmer really brings this movie to life with an array of Japanese and American-themed music that injects just the right amount of tension for the corresponding scene. Brilliantly done.

This movie is 5-Star material, but the DVD version is a huge disapointment. I would wait to see if a special edition DVD comes out (I can only hope) with the video quality this movie deserves.

Read Best Reviews of Black Rain (Special Collector's Edition) Here

REVIEW: The year is 1989 and so far in that decade we had some pretty cheesy action films. However, Ridley Scott took his approach to this story that if handled by anyone else would have ended up probably like any other 80's action flick. The story follows a renegade cop played by Michael Douglas and his partner played by Andy Garcia as they travel to Japan to deliver a convicted Japanese murderer back to the Japanese police to be imprisoned. When they arrive they are met by the police and hand over the prisoner, but things aren't that easy. The seemingly legit police officers were actually in disguise, and now Nick and Charlie clash with the Japanese culture and with their assigned guide from the Japanese police played by Ken Takakura.

The film follows the formula and if you put your head to it then of course this film will seem unoriginal, but that's not the point. I don't think anyone on the film thought they were creating a masterpiece. Ridley Scott is best known for creating worlds and really utilizing the setting of a film to shape the characters. Here he has Japan, a completely foreign land to most Americans, and he utilizes the setting perfectly. The film is very dark, color-wise. Most of the scenes take place at night and that's where we get the film's really vibrant lighting. Jan De Bont's cinematography really brings notice to the concrete jungle that is Japan and most of the scenes are lit by neon and florescent lights. This adds a harsh dark side to Michael Douglas' character, and that's appropriate since he is a flawed hero. Nick (Douglas) is not a likeable character at all, and that is why Charlie (Andy Garcia) is his partner. Charlie brings humor and charm to the film and the first half of the picture is actually carried on that character. Once we are focused on Douglas's character the film picks up speed and really opens more of his character as he builds a relationship with the Japanese policeman, Matsumoto (Takakura).

Michael Douglas gives his character a rough edge and he closes him up for the first two acts, and not until the third act do we see him start to open up. Douglas does a great job at crafting this flawed character. Andy Garcia is perfect as Douglas's opposite and brings the movie much needed life. Ken Takakura who has not done any American films besides this is great as a supporting character. Our villain is played by Yusaka Matsuda, one of those typical 80's action bad guys who doesn't talk that much and is all about the stare. It's the acting and the characters that makes this film's plot stand out from the rest, because if it were not for the characters then this movie would be forgotten in a month. Yes, Ridley Scott did craft the film into his style, and that did wonders for it, but if he had flat characters then it would be wasted.

VIDEO: The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was pretty bothered by the picture unfortunately. This transfer does not handle black well at all. In some scenes you can barely see the actors' faces, and I know that was not intentional from a creative standpoint. Jan De Bont's vivid lighting is brought to life and the neon shines sharply, but the picture overall is very soft. You will notice the blurriness of the picture mostly at the end of the film in the wine vineyard because it takes place during the day. Overall, not to impressed, especially since this is a double-dip.

AUDIO: The sound on the other hand is top notch. The old disc had a Dolby 5.1 mix, but with this new release we have an incredibly dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix. The picture is more about the atmosphere than it is about action, but it definitely enriched the viewing experience.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The old release was barebones, and surprisingly I was impressed with what was put together for this release. The bonus features consist of a "making of" documentary broken into 4 parts. The first part is about the pre-production of the film and runs for about 28 minutes. They go into the script and how they cast the film, it's great stuff. The production of the film is broken into two sections, a 20 minute part and a 7 minute part. They talk about the problems they had filming in Japan and how it was completely different than filming in America. We hear from the costume designer, the producers, the actors, Jan De Bont and his goals for the look of the film, and of course Ridley. The post production section talks about editing the film, scoring the film, and then the release of the film and public response. Hans Zimmer gets significant screen time and talks about his first film with Ridley Scott which would later lead to an incredible partnership. Zimmer is my idol and it was great watching him discuss this early work of his that would later become the structure for his scores to Batman Begins and The Last Samurai. There is also lots of resemblance to his score to Rain Man, which is how Ridley discovered him.

BOTTOM LINE: The film follows the formula, but Scott brings a new point of view to it and created a memorable, exciting, and entertaining picture. This is not the best film ever made and it's not Scott's best film, but it's a great action film that does everything it sets out to do.

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Great colors & action. Sound is superb. Douglas is a great action actor.

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