|'none of this film works if Conklin (Douglas) doesn't happen to be a machismo hot-head with a distaste for the rules but a penchant for brilliance in his chosen profession. He is basically Jeremy Clarkson: NYPD'|
Made ten years after Alien and seven years after Blade Runner, it's excusable that Black Rain is not an oft-cited piece of Ridley Scott's filmography. As one of the band of 80s 'Hair Thrillers' though, often centring on cops and their various foibles, its influence and influences are undeniable, relevant and occasionally well worth observing.
In the lead, Michael Douglas' Nick Conklin takes a huge amount from maverick detectives before him and offers more for the future. The rise of the symbolic accessory to denote character (most recently seen as Liam Neeson's scarf in A Walk Among The Tombstones, as cited by Mark Kermode) is on full show here from the off, Douglas taking part in a street-based motorcycle race, before Scott pulls back the curtain and reveals him as a cop. There's much more here too. Conklin is the type of police officer whose mannerisms are built on plot functionality; none of this film works if he doesn't happen to be a machismo hot-head with a distaste for the rules but a penchant for brilliance in his chosen profession. He is basically Jeremy Clarkson: NYPD.
As Conklin and Vincent (Andy Garcia) head to Japan to investigate a renegade Yakuza (Yûsaku Matsuda), the typical culture clash ensues, mainly pivoting around Conklin and Japanese detective Masahiro. There are various - mainly Western, it must be said - ideas around Japanese honour, but perhaps the clearest idea here is the way the US characters in a film once again find themselves on foreign territory, dealing more damage than they prevent. It is perhaps too respectful of Black Rain's quality to say that this may have been deliberate, but it is at least there, and perhaps those with a greater belief in liberal Hollywood than I may be able to read the message as intentional.
As is the way with such offerings, much of what is on show for most of the film's running time belie much baser ambitions. On catching up with Sato (Matsuda), the chasing police of course find that his lair is in a steelworks, complete with moody lighting, showering sparks and ahead-of-their-time villains sporting the new James Bond sunglasses. The finale, despite ostensibly being between a handful of people, of course manages to rope in a level of plotting which means many more people get to blow themselves up. As a final flourish, Conklin is predictably placed back in his (bike) saddle.
Black Rain was playing on Sky Go and other Sky Movies platforms.