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Review Black Rain (1989): A Ridley Scott classic!

genre: action, crime, thriller

Black Rain is a film I must have watched like over 15 times if not more. Yet somehow I still had not written a review for it. So guess it was about time I did. Now let me start by quoting Roger Ebert and what he thought of it.

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. He plays it so cold and distant that the heartfelt scenes ring false. And the colors in the movie - steel grays, gloomy blues and wet concrete, occasionally illuminated by neon signs, showers of sparks and exploding automobiles - underline the general gloom. (Read full article here.)

Black Rain is basically an action flick. So of course it's going to be full of cliches and inconsistencies. A story in an action film should be in serve of the action sequences and not the other way around. I really don't know what Ebert is referring to when he is talking about the right note implying there is a wrong one. Ridley Scott definitely hit the right note. There is a reason Douglas played his role so cold and distant. This becomes apparent in a scene where Masahiro ( Ken Takakura) has a heart to heart about a certain action committed by Nick. All this time he has been fooling himself that he has been doing the right thing all the time and that it doesn't matter if you break some rules from time to time. But it's in this scene you can see he doesn't believe this and is ashamed of his past actions. Him acting cold and distant is a bravado he puts up to show he doesn't have a care in the world. Besides he has seen things we people couldn't believe. I am sorry I had to make this joke. Anyway, being a cop in New York has made him bitter and cynical. It's not that hard to imagine that your outlook on life is dark and gloomy. It makes sense that for the most part he brought that darkness with him. But in the end he has absolved himself completely. Hist outlook has changed and he is back on the path of righteousness. How such character development can be seen as false is beyond me.

Roger Eberts also mentions Kate Capshaw, an American woman who seems to know a lot about the Yakuza. I have to agree with him on this. Plot wise it makes sense for Nick to connect with this woman. I mean without his partner Charlie (Andy Garcia) and not really supported by the Japanese authorities he feels lost in Japan. But what are the odds that of all the places he would find such a woman. It's very convenient. And to be honest I don't think she truly fits in this film. 

As for Ebert's comment about this being a designer film that goes for the visuals. If it's just beautiful visuals and spectacle then yes I can accept that as criticism. But Ridley Scott is also depicting manifestations of Nick's mood. I always wondered why they called this film Black Rain. In the film it is explained it refers to the aftermath of the bombs dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The rain and clouds were devastating and as a consequence has created people like Sato who disregarded their own identity and culture. In a way Nick is doing the same thing. He is on the warpath and only brings gloom and destruction with him. Except through events and his interactions with Masahiro he has found peace and truly is doing the right thing. Black Rain is an incredible beautiful film to look at. And there is nothing wrong with that. It comes as part of a whole package including flaws. But if it enhances my viewing experience why would I ever object to that?

I think Roger Ebert didn't understand action films and was always looking for meaning or deeper themes while the whole idea of such films is to get rid of everything that stands in the way of the action. Overall Black Rain is an action classic. It's not out yet on 4K  Blu-Ray. But don't fret. The Special Collector's Blu-Ray edition looks pretty spectacular overall. Maybe some scenes are a a bit noisy but I would like to think it's that special Eighties look that adds to the charm.

Definitely a must own!

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