Black Rain(Paramount Home Entertainment, 10.10.2006)
While this may not have been the director's initial intention back in 1989, Ridley Scott's Black Rain relies on its viewer's love of all things crappy/awesome in the eighties. It's got everything: a 45 year-old Michael Douglas -- with a Sergeant Riggs hairdo -- getting repeatedly kicked in the nuts, a distinctly embarrassing soundtrack, Kate Capshaw playing a useless character, a buddy cop theme (multiplied), yakuzas with swords riding motorcycles, ridiculous aviator sunglasses, a thumbs-up finale, and some of the best bad dialogue I've ever encountered. Example:
Nick (Douglas): "Sometimes you gotta forget your head and grab your balls."
Masahiro (Ken Takakura): "Balls?"
The film plays out like any by-the-numbers cop flick. Nick's one tough mofo. He rides a bike, sports menacing sunglasses, has blow-dried hair, and earns extra cash by street racing his sweet hog. Illegitimately, but not without honor, he does this in order to support his ex-wife, children, and mullet. The force don't like Nick and Nick don't like the force, but he's got the street smarts to show those stuffy suits how to fight crime with passion and style. Nick's also got a best buddy named Charlie (Andy Garcia), who likes to wear snappy suits and talk in a ludicrous accent.
One afternoon, Charlie and Nick are kickin' back at some trendy restaurant when all of a sudden Japanese gangsters kill some other Japanese gangsters. Nick manages to chase down the killer and make the arrest. Oddly enough, they have to escort the krazy killer back to Japan to face previous crimes committed there. Upon arrival, they give the bad guy to yakuzas posing as cops and the killer is free on his home turf, which looks more like the set of Blade Runner than authentic Japan. The rest is pretty easy to figure out, but there are a few rather nifty plot twists that are predictable but engaging nevertheless. Who can resist drunken Japanese karaoke or a sequence where a guy gets decapitated by a sword-wielding yakuza on a motorcycle?
In fairness, the film does feature first-rate cinematography by Jan de Bont, who also incidentally shot Lethal Weapon 3. Also, Ridley Scott deserves credit for doing just about as much as you can in 1989 to give a film like this some class. Lucky for him, there are people like myself who adore this sort of low brow camp. If not for worthy direction and bizarre casting, this could've been just like every other direct-to-video action film of that decade. Throw in Dolph Lundgren and some hack director and you've got Universal Soldier V.
Black Rain was previously released on DVD in 1999 with a crummy non-anamorphic transfer, rendering the film practically unwatchable. This new transfer is a massive step-up in terms of cleanliness and clarity. For a film that's nearly twenty years old, this is about as good a non-HD transfer as you're going to get. Upgraded audio is also superb.
This single disc DVD is loaded with content. First up is a recently recorded commentary track with Ridley Scott. The director has a lot to say about nearly every aspect of the film. It's hard to do a solo commentary but, fortunately, Scott is pretty entertaining on his own. One minor hitch is that a lot of this is repeated in the featurettes on this disc, but I say the more the merrier.
The four featurettes are basically just one feature-length documentary that's been split-up to look bigger, though each segment is quite lengthy and substantial. Still, these are best watched together in order. The self-congratulatory "The Script, The Cast" lasts twenty minutes and has Scott, Douglas, Capshaw, Garcia, de Bont, and some screenwriters, producers, and more.
"The Making of the Film" segment is further split into two parts for no reason at all. The first part lasts nearly thirty minutes, but the second part is just under ten minutes. Lastly, the post-production segment lasts just over ten minutes. These clips contain just about everything there is to know about how the film was made. We learn about mixed-up location shooting, alternate endings and cuts (Scott's original cut was 160 minutes), the dreadful score, deceased actors, and so much more. Also included is an anamorphic -- but unfortunate-looking -- theatrical trailer.
Black Rain is an oddity that's positioned somewhere between unwatchable and unmissable. It's ultimately a guilty pleasure that I'm sure many people will love to hate, time after time. They just don't make `em like they used to. -- Neil Karassik