Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
The Black Rain cover is pretty nice, showing both Michael Douglas’ character as well as Andy Garcia, both looking rather menacing. I don’t mind the cover, and the menus seemed adequate. I find myself wanting the menus of these standard DVDs to pop like the menus of the HD-DVDs do, but I admit that I am asking a bit much. That being said, both the cover and the menus for Black Rain were fine.
Ridley Scott gives a good commentary of the film, which by all accounts is quite good. As with most commentary features, it can be a bit short in quality, but this one seems decent enough. There are also short documentary segments that cover everything from casting to shooting on location in Japan. The shorts have interviews with the cast and cuts from the film itself. Overall the extras are proper, if not a bit commonplace.
The Movie: 8/10
This is a Ridley Scott film through and through. It is also a nice 80’s cop film that really only grazes the genre of cop buddy movies by not allowing a friendship to really emerge until the end of the film. Watching this movie again made me realize that this story, while dome before and after, really set the bar high for a cop out of water film. I was amazed by how many films since 1989 that have borrowed from Scott’s film. This is kind of a grittier Rush Hour, without all of the martial arts. That being said, I was also amazed at how well the movie holds up even with all of the advancements that have been made since the late 1980’s. I can only imagine that we would have been subjected to multiple martial arts sequences had this film been made today, and I think that it would have hurt the film in a way. Black Rain is a story that is character driven, and so not seeing Michael Douglas try to take on legions of Japanese martial arts ninjas is somewhat refreshing. It makes the film seem somehow more real.
The story involves Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) who is being investigated by Internal Affairs at his precinct. Nick and his partner Charlie (Andy Garcia) witness a murder as they are in a restaurant, and after arresting the murderer, they discover he is Japanese. They are ordered to return him to Japan, and when they are duped into releasing him to fake policemen in Japan, they join the hunt for his capture. They are forced to partner with a reluctant Japanese officer named Matsumoto (Ken Takakura). As hardened New York cops, the pair clash with Matsumoto and the more rigid style of the Japanese police. In the end, they discover that the murdered is a member of the Yakuza, a Japanese crime syndicate. The story unfolds as the group attempts to break the case and capture the fugitive.
Black Rain was a great film in 1989, and it still has its moments of glory. The haircuts and the outfits were bad, as was some of the dialogue, but it was never enough to venture into the cheesy zone. Black Rain is a dark film with a gritty feel. As fish out of water, the two cops are brilliantly played by Douglas and Garcia. And while I am not a huge fan of the ending of this film, the rest of it is quite good. There is not too much action that the characters get lost, and not too much character development that it feels slow. The cinematography is also quite good. I really liked Black Rain, and watching it again makes one realize just where Ridley Scott has come from, and how far he has traveled. Black Rain is a great preview of some of Scott’s greater works.
Video & Audio: 7/10
I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the video of Back Rain. I know that it is a film from 1989, and so I can’t expect perfection, but there were times that I felt that the film was grainy and that some of the scenes were a bit washed out. With Ridley Scott at the helm of the movie, the graininess could just be an attempt to make the film seem darker and grittier, but it got a bit annoying. The colors looked fine, and there was a real depth to some of the nighttime shots, but I often times felt like I was missing out due to this being a standard DVD. Perhaps I need to view the high definition version just to see if what I wanted to see was actually presented.
The audio was superb. My 5.1 stereo was given a workout, and the background noise was punchy and gave a real depth to the audio. It really enhanced some of the shots to hear such a rich background, but it didn’t go too far, so as to hurt the dialogue, which sounded great. Now, this may not be the best place to put this, but the song at the beginning of the film is absolutely 1980’s horrible (think Loverboy cover band-bad). I almost had to mute the film, but thankfully that was it for bad music.
This is a great film, with a nice commentary. There are plenty of buddy cop films, but this one really stands out for its character development and its story. I can’t say that I would entirely recommend this movie to own, but it is worth a watch. If you are an action fan, maybe look elsewhere, but this is a solid rent, and a semi-solid addition to your home DVD collection.
Overall Score 7/10