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Two New York cops get involved in a gang war between members of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia. They arrest one of their killers and are ordered to escort him back to Japan. In Japan, however, he manages to escape. As they try to track him down, they get deeper and deeper into the Japanese Mafia scene and they have to learn that they can only win by playing the game the Japanese way. Written by
Harald Mayr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ridley Scott tends to give his films a very potent visual energy (see "Alien" and "Blade Runner" for further evidence), and here he takes a story that's been around since films began and dresses it up with his customary pictorial trimmings. Black Rain is another fish-out-of-water yarn in which a cop leaves his usual patch to track down a criminal in an unfamiliar place (see also Brannigan, French Connection II, No Mercy, Beverly Hills Cop, etc. for other versions of what is virtually the same story). The unoriginality of it all is a bit disappointing in all honesty, but Black Rain compensates for its over-familiarity by excelling in other areas.
Reckless New York cop Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas - looking more like his father Kirk than ever) and his partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) catch a Japanese gangster named Sato (Yasuka Matsuda) in their city. They are assigned to escort Sato back to Japan and hand him over to the Japanese police. However, almost immediately upon their arrival Sato escapes with the aid of some of his underworld friends, cunningly disguised as cops. Nick and Charlie are left with egg on their face, and endeavour to help the Japanese police to recapture their man. They join Japanese cop Masahiro (Ken Takakura), but police methods in Japan prove very different to what the Americans are accustomed to, and soon differences in approach boil over into frustration and violence.
Scott paints the night-time streets of Osaka as some kind of neon-lit, nightmarish maze. It becomes easy to relate to Nick and Charlie's bewilderment, and the viewer is left glad NOT to be sharing their experiences in the seedy, dangerous environment of this seemingly hostile city. There are some attempts to explore the different codes of honour by which the American and Japanese law enforcers measure their success. Also, the film establishes and sustains an edgy atmosphere (one scene, in which a key character is lured into a trap and beheaded, is especially tense).
Black Rain is a mix of effective and not-so-effective elements. The visuals, the atmosphere and the cultural alienation of the main character are very interesting, while the plotting and dialogue are disappointingly familiar. It's definitely a film worth catching, though it probably won't be remembered as fondly fifty years from now as some of the director's other films.
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