(1989)2.5Karl WilliamsMuch like 1993's Rising Sun would do four years later, this engrossing but ultimately unsatisfying American thriller peers deeply into Japanese culture and customs, finding that nation's increasing world influence menacing. The visual stylization of director Ridley Scott is reliably breathtaking, and stars Michael Douglas and Ken Takakura are excellent as world-weary soldiers in the war on crime, with able support from Andy Garcia as the former's partner. Only the script poses problems here, but they are rather significant ones. Kate Capshaw turns up a few too many times in the role of a savvy bartender from the West, who's so knowledgeable about Japan she probably ought to get a book deal. Her exposition-required existence is far too obvious and creates an aura of incompetence around the Douglas character, who ought to be able to turn up some information on his own, being a detective. Then there are the repeated chase scenes, that, while excitingly realized by the production team, pile up one after another until one longs for a lengthy, talky, dialogue exchange. The Japanese cast is also superb, bringing subtle, three-dimensional shadings to their roles, particularly Takakura, but it's difficult to escape the sense of threat that permeates the film, its reactionary vibe to modern sociopolitical forces coming off as cinematic Ludditism. Black Rain is a seductive and fascinating film at its best, a cliché-ridden, but exquisitely filmed and faintly jingoistic crime drama at its worst.
Under scrutiny by his superiors for allegedly dipping into confiscated drug money, New York vice cop Michael Douglas can expect no sympathy from his ex-wife, who is gouging him for alimony. Douglas gets a chance to redeem himself when he is assigned to escort Japanese mob boss Yusaku Matsuda back to his own country to stand trial. Upon arriving in Osaka, Douglas and his partner Andy Garcia are tricked into releasing their prisoner. Now on the outs with both the American and Japanese police authorities, Douglas is forced to deal with the Yakuza-the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia-to retrieve the elusive Matsuda.