|Directed by||Ridley Scott|
|Produced by||Stanley R. Jaffe|
|Cinematography||Jan de Bont|
|Edited by||Tom Rolf|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$134.2 million|
Black Rain is a 1989 American action thriller film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Craig Bolotin and Warren Lewis. It stars Michael Douglas, Andy García, Ken Takakura, and Kate Capshaw and features Yūsaku Matsuda (in his final film role before his death that year) and Shigeru Kōyama. The film focuses on two NYPD officers who arrest a member of the Yakuza and must escort him back to Japan. Once there, he escapes, and the two officers find themselves dragged deeper and deeper into the Japanese underworld.
Black Rain was released by Paramount Pictures on September 22, 1989. Upon release, the film received generally mixed to positive reviews from critics, which praised the performances, action sequences, Hans Zimmer's musical score, direction and editing but criticized the screenwriting, clichéd story and lack of character development. In the years since, the film has become a major cult film and has been widely praised.
Black Rain was also a huge box office hit with grossing over $134 million worldwide in front of a production budget of $30 million, and was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.
Nick Conklin is a New York City police officer facing possible criminal charges; Internal Affairs believes Nick was involved with his partner, who was caught taking criminal money in a corruption scandal. Nick, who has financial difficulties, is divorced from his wife, who has custody of their two children.
At a restaurant, Nick and his longtime partner Charlie Vincent observe two Japanese men meeting with Mafia gangsters. Nick's suspicions are validated when another Japanese man enters the restaurant, seizes a small package at gunpoint, kills two people, and leaves. Nick and Charlie chase and arrest the suspect after he nearly kills Nick. They learn that the suspect's name is Sato, whom Nick and Charlie are told will be extradited to Osaka and given to the police there. Though angered that Sato will not be prosecuted in the US, Nick agrees to escort him; Nick's captain believes this will keep him from causing more trouble and exacerbating the already biased Internal Affairs investigation.
When they arrive in Osaka, they surrender Sato to the Japanese police, only to discover that they were duped by impostors and that Sato has escaped. Nick convinces the Osaka police to allow them to observe the investigation, though their weapons are confiscated. They are joined by local police detective Masahiro Matsumoto. While they have dinner one night, Nick behaves rudely and offends Matsumoto while Charlie attempts to be more polite. Nick also makes contact with an American nightclub hostess, Joyce, who explains that Nick and Charlie represent American inefficiency and stupidity to the Japanese. Through her, Nick discovers Sato is fighting a gang war with a notorious mob boss, Sugai, and traveled to New York to disrupt Sugai's counterfeiting scheme.
Nick joins a police raid without permission and takes a few $100 bills from the crime scene. The next day, Matsumoto confronts them over the theft, which has been subsequently reported in America. When Matsumoto tells Nick and Charlie that they have dishonored themselves and him as well as the police force because of the theft, Nick calls him a snitch and demonstrates the money is counterfeit by burning one of the bills. At night, Nick and Charlie walk back to their hotel drunk and unescorted, despite warnings about their safety. In an apparent prank, a young motorcyclist steals Charlie's coat and leads him to an underground parking garage, where it turns out that the motorcyclist is one of Sato's henchmen and that Sato has lured Nick and Charlie into a trap. Nick, separated from Charlie, watches in horror as Charlie is attacked before Sato decapitates him. Afterwards, Nick meets up with Joyce and she comforts him at her apartment. Matsumoto later visits Nick to give him Charlie's service pistol, and the two decide to work together in order to take down Sato.
Matsumoto and Nick track down one of Sato's operatives downtown. As they observe her movements, Nick confides to Matsumoto that he stole money in New York and never told Charlie about it - though admits that he isn't proud of what he did. The operative eventually retrieves a sample counterfeit note, which she passes to a gangster. Nick and Matsumoto tail him to a steel foundry, where they find Sato is meeting Sugai, and the package from New York is a printing plate for American $100 bills. Nick confronts Sato, who escapes when swarming police arrest Nick for waving a gun in public. Nick is consequently deported back to America, but he sneaks off the plane and visits Matsumoto - who has been suspended and demoted. Matsumoto refuses to help Nick, who then resolves to pursue Sato on his own. Joyce helps him meet Sugai, who explains that making counterfeit US currency is his revenge for the "black rain", or nuclear fallout, after the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. Nick suggests a deal where Sugai can use Nick to retrieve the stolen plate from Sato, thus leaving Sugai's reputation clean and allowing Nick to get the chance to apprehend Sato once and for all.
Sugai drops Nick at a remote farm with a shotgun. Nick is nearly spotted by one of Sato's lookouts, but Matsumoto arrives and knocks the gangster unconscious. He and Nick quickly deduce that Sato plans a massacre at his meeting with Sugai. When the two crime bosses meet, Sato cuts off one of his fingers in atonement, stabs Sugai, and escapes with the plates, sparking a gunfight between Sugai's and Sato's men. Matsumoto dispatches most of the gunmen while Nick chases Sato in a dirt bike. Nick prevents Sato's escape and the two engage in hand-to-hand combat. Sato initially gets the upper hand, but Nick takes advantage of Sato's finger loss to defeat him. With Sato at his mercy, Nick has the choice of whether or not to kill Sato for Charlie and all the humiliation he has suffered. Soon after, Nick and Matsumoto are seen taking Sato, alive, into police headquarters, much to the amazement of the police force.
For their contribution to Sato's arrest, Nick and Matsumoto gratefully receive commendations by the police chief superintendent. The pair later bid each other farewell as Nick prepares to return to America. He thanks Matsumoto for his assistance and friendship, then gives him a dress shirt in a gift box before leaving. Underneath the gift box, Matsumoto finds the counterfeit printing plates and shares a smile with Nick as the latter walks away.
Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan was originally approached to play the role of Sato, but instead turned it down as he felt audiences did not want to see him play a "bad" character. Harrison Ford and Kurt Russell were strongly considered for the role of Nick Conklin, before Michael Douglas was cast due to his favorable relationship with producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe.
The film began shooting in November 1988 and ended in March 1989. Japanese actor Yūsaku Matsuda, who played Sato, died of bladder cancer shortly after the film's completion. Director Ridley Scott dedicated the film to his memory.
The high cost and red tape involved in filming in Japan prompted director Scott to declare that he would never film in that country again. Scott was eventually forced to leave the country and complete the final climactic scene (which included American character actor Al Leong) in Napa Valley, California.
This film marks the first collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Ridley Scott. He would go on to score several more films for Scott, including Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down and Matchstick Men.
Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto contributed the song "Laser Man" to the film's soundtrack.
Large parts of Black Rain were filmed in Osaka, although some of the locations have changed somewhat since the late 1980s when production took place. The original intention of Ridley Scott was to film in the Kabukicho nightlife district of Shinjuku, Tokyo. However, the Osaka authorities were more receptive towards film permits so the similarly futuristic neon-infused Dōtonbori in Namba was chosen as the principal filming location in Japan.
An aerial shot of Osaka bay at sunset with the estuaries of the Yodogawa, Kanzakigawa and Ajigawa rivers frames the opening sequence of the arrival into Japan.
The main filming location in Osaka is by the Ebisubashi bridge. The futurist Kirin Plaza building (architect Shin Takamatsu, built 1987), the Ebisubashi and the famous neon wall overlooking the Dōtonbori canal creates the Blade Runner-esque mise-en-scène.
Umeda, Osaka's northern centre, is represented by the first floor shopping mall concourse of Hankyu Umeda station Terminal Building. Resembling a futuristic neo-gothic nave from a cathedral, this is where Charlie Vincent's (Andy Garcia) jacket is stolen by a bosozoku biker. Because the production could not finish the segment in Japan, Charlie's demise, the subsequent escalator chase and car park scenes, replete with appropriate Japanese signs, were shot in downtown Los Angeles.
The now removed Shinsaibashi bridge (dismantled in 1995), Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Market, Nippon Steel Works in Sakai City (south Osaka), Kyobashi, the elevated Hanshin Expressway, Osaka Castle and Nanko Port Town also feature briefly, as well as the Motomachi shopping district of neighbouring Kobe.
In New York City, the 1964 World Expo's Unisphere opens the film, followed by Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) riding over the Queensboro Bridge. The illegal bike race between Nick and an anonymous challenger took place from underneath the west underside of the Brooklyn Bridge north to the Manhattan Bridge.
The soundtrack had various artists with the score composed by Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack was originally released as a 7-track album in 1989 by Virgin Movie Music on cassette, vinyl and compact disc. However, it was re-released in 2012 by La-La Land Records in limited edition as a two-disc package.
|1.||"Livin' on the Edge of the Night" (Iggy Pop)||Eric Rackin, Jay Rifkin||3:40|
|2.||"The Way You Do the Things You Do" (UB40)||Robert Rogers, William Robinson||3:15|
|3.||"Back to Life (Jam On The Groove Mix)" (Soul II Soul Featuring Caron Wheeler)||Beresford Romeo, Paul Hooper, Simon Law||5:09|
|4.||"Laserman" (Ryuichi Sakamoto)||Sakamoto||4:49|
|5.||"Singing in the Shower" (Les Rita Mitsouko and Sparks)||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||4:24|
|6.||"I’ll Be Holding On" (Gregg Allman)||Hans Zimmer, Will Jennings||5:40|
|7.||"Black Rain Suite - Sato, Charlie Loses his Head, Sugai, Nick & Masa"||Hans Zimmer||4:45, 7:03, 6:55, 2:52|
Black Rain was released in the United States on September 22, 1989, and in the Philippines on February 1, 1990. It was screened as the opening film at the 3rd Tokyo International Film Festival in October 1989 and shown as the Special Invitational Screening film. Ken Takakura attended the event. It was later screened at the Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei.
Black Rain was first released in the U.S. on Blu-ray Special Collector's Edition in 2007 by Paramount Pictures with six extra features including audio commentary by director Ridley Scott, a two-part "Making of Black Rain" documentary, a 20-minute featurette about the script and cast and a 12-minute segment looking at the post-production. It was first released in the UK in 2008. The same edition was re-released by Warner Bros. in 2013.
In its opening weekend, Black Rain grossed $9.6 million in 1,610 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office. It stayed at the #1 spot for two more weeks. At the Japanese box office, Black Rain was the fifth top-grossing foreign film of 1989, earning ¥1.35 billion in distributor rentals. The film grossed a total of $46.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $88 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $134.2 million.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film "plays as if it had been written in the course of production. There seems to have been more desperation off the screen than ever gets into the movie. As bad movies go, however. the American 'Black Rain' is easy to sit through, mostly because of the way Mr. Scott and his production associates capture the singular look of contemporary urban Japan." Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and stated, "Even given all of its inconsistencies, implausibilities and recycled cliches, Black Rain might have been entertaining if the filmmakers had found the right note for the material. But this is a designer movie, all look and no heart, and the Douglas character is curiously unsympathetic." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded the same two-star grade and wrote, "The crosscultural action picture might have worked if the filmmakers had come up with a script in which Douglas' character had been rendered weak and confused by being a fish trying to swim in strange waters. But instead he is presented as a traditional action hero dominating everyone in sight. The cultural imperialism of that decision makes for a routine and frequently offensive story full of Asian stereotypes."
A review in Variety stated, "Since this is a Ridley Scott film, 'Black Rain' is about 90% atmosphere and 10% story. But what atmosphere! This gripping crime thriller about hardboiled N.Y. cop Michael Douglas tracking a yakuza hood in Osaka, Japan, boasts magnificent lensing by Jan DeBont and powerfully baroque production design by Norris Spencer." Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times described the plot as "standard '80s schtick" but called the visuals "hellaciously gorgeous" and concluded that "action movies are one genre where clichés can be transcended and execution can triumph over content. That's what happens here." Rita Kempley of The Washington Post wrote that Scott "approaches this prickly action thriller with the gusto of a sushi chef in a fish storm. Unfortunately and typically, he loses sight of his story in this artistic barrage of blood and guts. It's a gorgeous, erratic movie most definitely not for those with an aversion to cutlery."
The film currently holds a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews.
In retrospect, Michael Douglas said: “It was hard to know who to root for. And people here were uncomfortable with race stuff and talking about the bomb. There was a critic, who'll remain nameless, who called it a racist film. I called him up and asked, "Have you ever been to Japan?". He said, "No", and I said, "Then what the hell are you talking about?". The Japanese loved it. I loved it--I thought it rocked from top to bottom.“
During an interview on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron in November 2021, Scott called the film “f*cking great“.
Black Rain was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester) and Best Sound Effects Editing. (Milton Burrow and William Manger)