Spoiler Warning


Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Black Rain


What About It?
(For a full summary of the film, scroll down to "What Happens?" below)

Black Rain is not a film that turns storytelling conventions on their ear. We've all seen buddy cop movies, compromised cop, and culture clash stories. We're not surprised the in this film the Eastern and Western philosophies each have something to offer the other. Mixing all of these tried and true stories together, however, has an interesting effect. Ridley Scott could've easily kept Michael Douglas' Nick Conklin in NY and examined him on the job while the pressure from Internal Affairs mounted. Nick is a very specific kind of cop. As is pointed out several times in the film, he's a "hero" cop. Based on what we learn about him, we can't argue with the IA Officer who doesn't like hero's because they feel "the rules don't apply." He's right in a way, but only up to a point.

Based on Conklin's actions, the criticism appears valid. He behaves as if rules concerning taking money off the top from drug dealers don't apply to him. It's quite obvious however, that he knows he broke the rules, and it bothers him. Conklin's frequent tirades against the "suits." and his rants about his fellow dirty officers "just trying to get by." have little to do with those officers and everything to do with him justifying his actions to himself. He excuses his actions by excusing those who did the same thing. He has financial pressures, kids to take care off, bills to pay, and the drug dealers wouldn't miss it. He only admits his guilt once, when Masahiri cuts through his evasions and asks him directly "Did you take money?" He then applies the excuses he gave for those officers to himself. At this point, Masahiri is not concerned, as he once was, with whether or not Nick is a dirty cop. He's concerned because by then he knows that Nick should be better than that.

It's also interesting that Nick tells Masahiri that Charlie didn't know he took money. Seeing the relationship between Charlie and Nick, it's likely that Charlie avoided ever asking him directly. He viewed Nick as a hero, a little rough around the edges, but was not ambivalent on the subject of stealing money. When Nick was ranting about Ronan, Charlie could admit that Ronan was a good cop, but did not see this as excusing his actions. He said "Just because Ronan was desperate and got tempted doesn't make him less wrong Nick." The cops taking money seems to be common knowledge, but they avoid talking about Nick's participation directly. Charlie admires Nick, and it would seem that he avoided asking a question he didn't want to know the answer to.

The dynamic between Nick and Charlie is a familiar one, each brings something to the partnership that the other doesn't have. Nick is aggressive and abrasive, while Charlie smooths things over. Charlie is impressed by Nick's straight shooting cowboy swagger. Nick appreciates Charlie's finesse. The partnership is an adaptable one too, and when Nick's aggression won't be smoothed, Charlie supports him fully. They're obviously good friends as well as partners. Nick can put aside his hatred of "the suits" and suggest Charlie use IA as a means to get ahead. Charlie's presence helps keep Nick from compromising himself even more. Andy Garcia plays him as optimistic and hopeful. Charlie clearly sees himself as one of the good guys, but he's not a Puritan about it. He attempts to see things in their best light, while Charlie can't help but see them at their worst. This quality, Nick realizes later, is what gets him killed. His willingness to play games with the Yakuza thugs, places him in the wrong place at the wrong time. "He should've known better." Nick laments, and he's right, but him not knowing better is what makes Charlie an endearing character. He's the pure, uncompromised cop of the two, and this is why it matters when Masahiri tells Nick that stealing disgraces Charlie's memory. Nick doesn't argue this, he knows it's true.

Watching Charlie, Nick and Masahiri interact is entertaining, and the three of them together is the ideal set up. Nick and Masahiri on the two extremes and Charlie serving as the buffer between them. Charlie very quickly takes a liking to Masahiri, making a point to remind Nick to try and keep him out of trouble with his boss. Their duet at the club is perhaps the lightest moment in the film and tells us a lot about both characters. Masahiri isn't as all business as he appears, and Charlie is a guy who genuinely likes people. It's also notable that the revelry would likely not have happened if Nick hadn't taken off to meet up with Joyce. Both Charlie and Masahiri are able to put Sato aside and have fun, while catching him is the only thing that Nick thinks about. This is likely what makes Nick a "hero" cop, and also a large reason why his life has spun out of his control.

Ken Takakura does a tremendous job as Masahiri, giving him enough complexity to keep him away from stereotype. He is quite firmly Japanese, and conscious of "the group," yet he can adapt and think outside the box when dealing with the American characters. His back and forth Japan vs. USA talk with Nick, is basically the two of them comparing stereotypes, although Masahiri's problem is deeper than "how Americans are now." He acknowledges that "you were wise then." which neatly mirrors the state of Nick Conklin, who undoubtedly started out strong only to get corrupted by dealing with the day to day pressures of life. Takakura is known as "Japan's Clint Eastwood." and he certainly holds his own against Douglas well enough. His reluctance to go along with Nick, doesn't diminish his effectiveness once he does commit himself. Nick gaining respect for him is a key element of the film, as both of his partners tell him essentially the same thing, that "theft is theft." His gift of the plates to Masahiri, hopefully indicates Nick adopting a fresh perspective.

Yusaku Matsuda is perfect as Sato, a villain who we sense is capable of anything. He isn't bothered by being a fish out of water. During his visit to America, he doesn't hesitate to butcher people. He'll do anything to get the respect he wants and seems to enjoy tormenting people, especially Nick and Sugai. Despite his youthful rashness, he is also willing to delay his gratification if he thinks it will pay off in a more satisfying way later. It isn't until the end of the movie, that he reveals to Nick that he can speak English, which tells us that his smirks during Nick and Charlie's plane conversation were due to him pegging Nick as a dirty cop. He is also willing to cut off his own finger in order to convince Sugai he's won, just so he can yank it away a moment later. Matsuda clearly put his best into the role and created a chilling and memorable villain here. During filming he knew that he was dying of bladder cancer, but kept it a secret although it made his condition worse. "This way, I will live forever." he reasoned, and hopefully he was right.

As we'd expect from Ridley Scott, who gave us Alien and Blade Runner, the experience of the film owes a lot to its environment. Set in Osaka, which was devastated in World War II, producing stories such as the "Black Rain" mentioned by Sugai, there is a haunted quality to it with massive commercialization built on top. The underground parking garages, labyrinthine open markets, and massive metal working factories, loom over Nick and Charlie. They can't get to their hotel, and they can't even talk to most people they run into. This is not the ideal situation in which to make enemies of the Yakuza, who know it all like the back of their hands. They are also forced to do it all without guns a fact which clearly unnerves them, being essential to American cops. Of course guns, aren't the real threat in this film, Sato and his crew prefer knives and swords, and they like to get flashy with them, as evidenced by Charlie's beheading. There are blades around every corner, while they are defenseless, another foreign element, and a brutal one. Even in America, Nick's gun is taken away when he fights with Sato, surrounded by meathooks in a slaughterhouse, he has to deal with Sato's blade, and the prospect of being suffocated with a plastic bag, foreign threats, not things he's used to dealing with. It's unfamiliarity with the environment that leaves Nick powerless when Charlie is killed, even though he can see every last detail. Add to the landscape the dark atmosphere and the persistent rain, and you get a bleak picture that mirrors the state of Nick's life. He and Charlie are "gaijin" and no one is interested in helping them. Osaka is oppressive, but not to the locals, they know how it all works.

Michael Douglas is perfect in this role, as a largely unsympathetic lead character. Nick is an effective character but not a likeable one, spending most of his time selling himself justifications that we already know he's too smart to accept. His main excuse for taking dirty money is a manufactured blue collar entitlement. He tells himself there's a war between he and those cops that bust their asses and "the suits." who, as it turns out, are justified in their actions towards him. The money obsession is the main uniting factor between east and west. When Sugai tells Nick (addressing him as a representative of America) "You made the rain black and shoved your values down our throats. We forgot who we were. You created Sato and the thousands like him. I'm paying you back." Nick can't really argue the point. He himself has sacrificed his integrity for the sake of a little money. He is not alone in this either. His dealings with IA tell us there are many cops under investigation, and Sugai's comment reveals that Sato is hardly alone in his fixation. In Japan however, Nick is exposed to a different way of thinking than he's used to.

The idea of honor/dishonor and obligation to a larger group as presented through Masahiri and even Charlie are able to sink in due to his strange surroundings and Masahiri exceeding his expectations. In Japan he has little support system and every vulnerability is magnified. This makes it easy for him to focus on finding Sato, and with the events that occur, to recognize his own failings. His interactions with the Japanese show him a side to being American that he hadn't really considered and his blue collar entitlement doesn't hold up to the scrutiny. He hates the "suits" yet Masahiri and Charlie, the two men he's closest to here, are constantly in suits, although they're lower on the totem pole than him. Nick's "cowboy" ethic also takes a beating as he is forced to rely on help from others. From the beginning, Nick is a dirty cop, although not a habitual one. He continually struggles to reconcile his wrongdoing with the idea of being a "good" cop. As demonstrated here, it took extraordinary circumstances to get him back on the right side of the line.

There are certainly some logic problems in the film. It doesn't make sense that Nick and Charlie would be sent to Japan, particularly when Nick is under investigation. It's also hard to believe that Sato's escape is effective, as you would assume the Japanese cops and airport security would've been on higher alert than to let Sato's gang pose as them and simply walk in and grab Sato, luckily choosing a different airplane door. Nonetheless, it's an exciting and gritty film, presenting a familiar dilemma, and several familiar plots in an exciting, and interesting way. The elements of the buddy cop film are split into two sets of partners giving both pairings an energy they wouldn't otherwise have had, particularly the Nick/Masahiri combination which is completely informed by the loss of Charlie. Certainly we're not spared any of the weight of that loss, Charlie's death, being one of the cruelest scenes in any film. From then on, Nick has no choice to realize that there are bigger things than money trouble and just doing your job. It doesn't aim to settle any East/West debate, but it does refresh the idea that regardless of what you need, wrong is still wrong.




What Happens?

The film opens with Officer Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) on his motorcycle in plain clothes. He meets up with a group of other riders, remarking that another guy's new motorcycle looks fast. He suggests that they race for a $50.00 bet, which the other guy gladly accepts. They race through a hazardous construction zone, Nick decides to jump some obstacles, while the other motorcyclists wipes out trying to avoid them. After the other guy gets up, Nick asks for his $50.00, prompting the guy to say "You're a real fucking wacko. You know that?" Nick laughs and takes the money.



He heads home, puts his gun on the table and listens to his messages. He gets one message from his ex wife telling him they're three months behind on payments to the kids' school, and that he can have the kids for an upcoming weekend. There's also a message from Barney Adell, Attorney, suggesting that Nick wear a jacket today for their meeting at 10:00.   He leaves and stops at his ex wife's house. He sees two of his kid's outside and is informed that one called another an "ugly goose." He brushes it off and sends two of the kids inside with money for their mother. He takes one of the kids with him on his motorcycle, checking to see that he doesn't mind going in the rain. He drops off his kid, and heads to work at the Police Station. He runs into his partner, Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) on the way. Charlie gets on the back of the motorcycle and brags about his expensive new shoes. Charlie discusses Nick's meeting with Internal Affairs, telling him it's better if he goes to see them, versus them going to see him. He recommends he show up in full uniform, to show off his "breast bars." noting that "They should name a wing in Attica after you." Charlie wishes Nick luck and reminds him that he has to show up, before taking off in a squad car.

Nick heads into the station. His Chief tells him he'll walk "If you tell the truth, and keep your wits." Nick assures him he has nothing to hide. Nick straightens out his suit and heads to the meeting with Internal Affairs. Internal Affairs Officer Crown (Richard Riehle) comments about Nick's record and tells him "You're a regular hero." He then asks him about another cop.
Crown: Tell me about Monte Ronan.
Nick: Good cop. He's the kind of guy you want backing you up when the shit goes down.
Crown: That's what you think?
Nick: Yeah, yeah, that's what I think.
Crown: He's dirt. And you know it.
Nick: Oh yeah? You worked the streets with him? We got 30 homicides a week.
Crown: Tell us about Patrick Donleavy.
Nick's Lawyer speaks up, saying Nick has no knowledge about that officer. Crown insists that Nick's in a position to know.
Internal Affairs Officer Berg (Stephen Root) speaks up "28, June, 88. Your unit arrested 3 suspects. Cash was logged in as $65,000.00 and change. We believe there was more than $73,000.00 in the vehicle you impounded."
Nick: Says who?
Crown: There are sources.
Nick: Well, now we're listening to suspects, not cops?
Crown: Depends on the cop. I don't like heroes. They think the rules don't apply.
Nick: I try to do my job. Ok, it ain't easy out there. I'm clean.
Berg: Well, detective, you have a couple kids at St. John's, house payments, alimony, apartment. That's a king sized nut. I admire your thrift.
Nick: Life's a bitch.
Crown: We did the math. You're 1,000 a month in the hole. You're into the shylocks. You're taking.
Nick: You want to charge me, you charge me, you wanna jerk off, go back to your office.
Crown: We'll charge you. Someone will help us out. No one's softer than a dirty cop.
Nick: You want dirt, go to City Hall, huh? Police Plaza. The whole Goddamn system's falling apart and you're busting my ass? Suits, man.

Nick meets up with Charlie after the meeting. He walks in on Charlie practicing questions for the Sergeant's exam. Charlie asks how it want. Nick asks for a Scotch and says "Any more of this shit, I'll go blind." Nick mentions that Charlie should think about I.A.D., as a quick way to get ahead. Charlie tells him "You never know." They discuss Abolofia, a mobster who's eating at the restaurant. Charlie adds "He's importing Subaru's now." Nick looks over at the mobster's table, seeing some Japanese men eating with the Italian gangsters. Nick responds "Wise Guys gotta eat too. Just my luck, I'm under investigation and having lunch with the mob." He adds that they probably have the place wired. Charlie jokes "If you got a beef, just talk into my left titty here." More Japanese men walk in, with guns and stand around Abolofia's table. One of the new arrivals a younger Japanese man, Sato (YĆ»saku Matsuda) walks over to an older Japanese guy at Abolofia's table. He opens the older man's jacket and pulls out a box  from his inside pocket. Nick and Charlie consider pulling guns but Nick whispers "Don't even think about it." The young man and the man at the table talk in Japanese. Sato's men leave, but before he leaves, he pulls out a knife and kills both Japanese men eating with Abolofia, then calmly leaves the restaurant. As soon as Sato's men are out of the main area, Nick and Charlie chase them. Nick manages to stop their getaway car, but Sato runs on foot through a slaughterhouse. Sato surprises him, sneaking up and putting a plastic bag over Nick's head. Nick struggles and gets himself free as Sato pulls his knife. They fight, Nick subduing him in time for Charlie to catch up to them. Sato attempts to escape but Charlie stops him. Other officers have arrived and they arrest Sato, taking him away.

At the Police Station, Charlie and Nick discover that the restaurant victims were Yakuza. Nick decides to question Sato and finds people from the Japanese Embassy there to speak with him first. Nick tells the Chief that since he nearly got killed, the Embassy can have him after he serves twenty to life in the US. The Chief hands Nick some paperwork explaining that it all rolls downhill and there's nothing he can do about it. He tells Nick that they need someone to escort Sato back to Japan, and he and Charlie will be assigned the job. The Chief suggests Nick relax on the assignment as he's already heard that Nick went off on Internal Affairs. He tells Nick "I'll stand by you 100%, as long as you're right."

They get on the plane. Nick and Charlie seat Sato between them. Nick asks Charlie if he knows Ronan, adding "good cop." He notices that Charlie hesitates before agreeing. Charlie clarifies "He is a good cop." Nick talks more about Ronan saying "He busts his ass 14 hours a day, so he can end up in debt, and this guy's [Sato] wearing my house payment." Charlie adds "Just because Ronan was desperate and got tempted doesn't make him less wrong Nick."
Nick: That's bullshit. You take something off the top of some dealer you locked up, you don't get crucified. You wait til you get a family pal, start dealing with the private schools, the braces. The man is just trying to get by. [Sato smirks at Nick]
Charlie gets up to walk around the plane, while Nick plays solitaire. Sato looks at Nick and snickers. Nick acts like he's stretching and elbows Sato in the face. Charlie gets back and asks what happened. nick says "he bit his lip or something."

The Japanese Police headed by Insector Nashida, meet Nick and Charlie on the plane. They sign off and hand Sato over. Sato taunts Nick with a finger pointing as gun gesture before he leaves. Getting off the plane, Nick and Charlie run into another group of Police Officers there to collect Sato. Nick realizes they were tricked, but Sato has already escaped. Nick calls home and explains what happened although the Chief is of course upset. Charlie looks through mugshots for the men that picked up Sato. Charlie and Nick have difficulty communicating with anyone in the station as they all speak Japanese. A Japanese Officer escorts them to a meeting. on the way Charlie asks Nick if he's going to be nice. He insists he is, but adds "I just hope they've got a nip here that speaks fucking English." The Officer escorting them introduces himself as "Assistant Inspector Matsumoto, Masahira (Ken Takakura) Preliminary Investigation Section, Osaka Prefectural Police. And, I do speak fucking English."

Nick and Charlie have a meeting with the head of the Japanese Police Force with Masahira translating for them. The Japanese expect an apology for  losing Sato, but Nick is angry that they let impostors through security and blames them. The Boss surprises them by holding up the document that Nick signed and saying "This document is an insurance policy." Charlie remarks "The guy speaks English." The Chief tells them to go home, but Nick insists that until he signs off on Sato for real, he's still their man. He threatens to start an international incident and the chief relents, agreeing to let them stay, but they have to leave their guns. Nick insists on having a cop work with them that speaks English. He assigns them Masahira. The three of them go out to search.

They report to a homicide and find one of the victims was also one of the fake cops that helped Sato escape. They find an American $100.00 bill in the victim's mouth. Nick insists on hearing the details of what happened but Masahira insists that they are just observers and should go back to their hotel.
Nick: I usually like to get kissed before I get fucked.
Masahira: [looks at Charlie] What did he say?
Charlie: Foreplay. Likes a little foreplay.
Nick tries to pick up what details he can from the scene, including a woman they escort away with blood on her hand. He notices a blonde American woman, Joyce (Kate Capshaw,) who also has some bloodstains and goes to talk to her. He asks how she got blood on her. She tells him "The girls want to know if you're the guy that lost Sato at the airport. Just off the plane, you made the evening news. Very impressive. Americans who are less than perfect." She tells Nick that she put her arms around the girl that found the body. Nick asks her why she's being hostile, and Joyce explains that he could get her killed. She tells him there's a war going between Sato and a man named Sugai. He asks "Who knows about this?"
Joyce: Counting you and me?
Nick: Yes.
Joyce: 11 Million
Masahira asks Nick if the woman told him anything. He answers "Why would she tell me anything? I'm just an observer. You tell Ohashi, I'll report to him when he's ready to report to me."
Masahira: I'm a Police Officer just like you, detective.
Nick: Bullshit, you're a suit. Go tell Ohashi one good hand job deserves another.
Masahira: I don't understand.
Nick declines a ride to the hotel and tells Masahira he wants the full file on Sato and what happened tonight for 9:00 tomorrow morning. Masahira tells him it'll be long walk but Nick insists. We see Sato on a nearby rooftop, looking down at Nick and Charlie. While they walk Charlie asks Nick about his last call. Nick tells him that IA thinks he cut a deal with Sato. Charlie responds "They're full of shit." and reminds Nick that he'll back him up. They're soon met by many Japanese men on motorcycles heading towards them, and then circling around them shouting in Japanese before leaving. When they're gone, Charlie suggests they go home and let the locals handle it. Nick tells him "I can't go back without him."

The next morning, Masahira fills them in on Sato, and shows them a picture of Sugai, explaining that he's "like you Mafia bosses." Masahira says he doesn't know what connection there is between Sato and Sugai. Nick tells him that he knows Sato was a Lieutenant for Sugai until they started fighting. Nick wonders what was in the box that Sato took from his American victim. Nick and Charlie notice some armed police mobilizing outside the office. Masahira insists that it's a training exercise, but they don't believe him. After asking several times, Masahira tells them the Officers have a tip on Sato's whereabouts. They asks Masahira to get them a file and then Charlie and Nick get in the truck with the armed unit. Masahira attempts to stop them but Nick says "No problem. It's only a tip. Come on."

The Police squad storms into a building. Masahira reminds Nick and Charlie that they're observers. Charlie recognizes the man in the house as being another guy from the airport. Nick headbutts the guy before they pull him away. Charlie notices Japanese and AMerican bills on a table and points them out to Nick. Nick pockets a few $100.00 bills while Masahira talks with Ohashi. Nick tells Charlie they should go. Charlie tells him if he got something they should share it with Masahira, since his boss is mad. A guy on a motorcycle with a full helmet notices them leaving. Nick pulls out one of the bills and burns it, discovering that it's counterfeit.

They meet Masahira at a studio where he and others are practicing with wooden swords. Nick tells him they have good news but he ignores them. Nick asks "What's his problem?" Masahira approaches them and tells Nick "I will have no more to do with you." He tells them Ohashi is wating for them. Nick and Charlie tell him they'll square him with Ohashi. Masahira says "You have dishonored me and our department. You are a thief." Nick pokes Masahiri with a wooden sword. Masahira says "I saw you take the money." Nick says "You saw me take the money, huh? You know what it's like getting something done around here?
Masahira: I've informed Ohashi of your crime. He has spoken to a Captain in NY. We know the kind of man you are.
Nick: You don't know one thing about me. Your self righteous bullshit, man, gonna cost me my goddamn job. [Masahira walks away.] Hey! I'm talking to you! [swipes at Masahira with a wooden sword. Masahira swipes back resting his sword on Nick's shoulder against his neck.] Nick abandons the sword and pushes Masahari to the ground. he tells him "If you pull it. You better use it." They all head to Ohashi's office and Nick shows them that the bills are counterfeit. He informs them that they have a counterfeiting war going on, and tells Masahiri "You pal, should talk to your partner before you go to the suits. So, fuck you very much." Charlie adds. "We were gonna cut you in on the deal, Mas."

Nick and Charlie head to the nightclub where the earlier murder occurred. Nick asks about the American girl. Charlie notices Masahari in the background and calls him over to join them. Nick, not realizing that Charlie called him over, assures him that he hasn't taken the silverware and tells him to "Take a hike." Charlie calms things down and insists that he join them. Masahari tells Nick that he was doing his duty and that he should think less of himself and more of the group. He adds "Listen, I grew up with your soldiers. You were wise then. Now, music and movies are all America is good for." Charlie again tries to get everyone to relax. Nick notices Joyce walking in. He approaches her and asks her to help him. Joyce points out a girl and tells him to give her $50.00 and go where she takes him, and she'll find him. Charlie and Masahari have a good time. Charlie tells him he has to "lose the K-Mart tie." He takes his own tie off and gives it to him as a gift. He thanks him and tells Charlie "I like you." Charlie comments about the guy singing "That's Amore." and Masahari challenges him to do better. Charlie says he can. Masahari says "Put it up, or shut up." Charlie gets up and does a performance of "What I Say." calling Masahari up to the stage to join him.

Joyce has found Nick and tells him she can't help him find Sato, and he hasn't been to the club in over a year.  Nick asks her "Who do you do regularly?" Joyce answers "What makes you think I pay attention?"
Nick: Honey, I think you'd recognize if a customer had a different tie on.
Joyce: He had a different girl every time. And, I don't know who he's doing regularly.
Nick notices Sugai on a video monitor and asks her how he can get to him. She tells him sternly to let the police take care of it as no one will help a "gaijin." He tells her to choose a side and she says "I did. I'm on my side." Nick leaves her and takes a look at Sugai walking past him. Nick and Charlie walk through an underground parking garage to their hotel and notice a man on a motorcycle following them. Charlie takes off his jacket as if to stage a bullfight and goads the rider. He rides towards Charlie and grabs his jacket, riding off with it. Charlie gets angry and demands he bring it back. Nick tries to calm him down, but the Motorcycle driver spits on the jacket and says "Fuck You." Charlie runs towards him telling Nick his passport is in it. He takes off before Charlie catches him, but he chases him, and then Nick chases Charlie. Nick loses them. The Motorcyclist drops Charlie's jacket in a puddle. Charlie picks it up and holds out the jacket again. He notices several other men on motorcycles showing up, while Nick comes out in another section of the garage, and heads towards the sounds. He runs in the right direction but finds a gate between them so he can see Charlie but can't get through. Nick screams at Charlie to get out of there. The men start passing by Charlie and sticking him with their knives. Nick sees Sato himself there. Sato smiles at Nick and shows him a sword. Sato rides up and beheads Charlie, leaving Nick screaming on the other side. They ride away.

Joyce finds Nick later, standing out in the rain and tells him to come with her. Masahari approaches in time to watch them leave. Nick tells Joyce about Charlie. She answers the door and finds Masahari there. He asks to speak with Nick alone. Masahari offers his condolences and tells Nick he made all of Charlie's arrangements. Nick thanks him. Masahari goes on to say that he thinks if he had been with them, it wouldn't have happened. He shows Nick a bundle and says "Charlie's things. We have a tradition. When someone close to us dies, we keep something personal of his." Nick asks "Can we do this another time?" Masahari asks him "Please, Nicki-San" He looks through Charlie's things and gives Masahari Charlie's badge and says "This is for you." Nick finds Charlie's gun, and asks "I can take anything I want." Masahari confirms "Anything." He checks the gun to make sure it has bullets. He tells Masahari "I want to go back to Sato's hideout. Just you and me." They head back to the hideout where Nick starts turning it inside out, knocking things over, looking for a clue. As Masahari is telling him there's nothing to find and they should go. Nick notices a table with sequins scattered on it. He holds one up and says "Masa, sequins." This reminds Nick of one of the girls at the club murder. Nick and Masahiri find her and follow her. Seeing her go into a back room behind a busy market, they stop and have a meal while keeping an eye on her room.

Masahiri: There's something maybe I should not ask.
Nick: You can ask me anything you want.
Masahiri: These disturbing things I hear about you in New York...
Nick: A couple of guys I used to work with in the department, took some money from some drug dealers. It's no big deal.
Masahiri: They stole?
Nick: They, umm, liberated funds.
Masahiri: Theft is theft. There is no grey area.
Nick: Hey Masa, NY is one big grey area, ok?
Masahiri: Did you take money?
Nick: [pausing a moment] Yeah, I took money. I'm not proud of it, Ok, you know. I had a divorce, got kids, bills.
Masahiri: Did Charlie-San know?
Nick: No.
Masahiri: He was a policeman, Nick. If you steal, you disgrace him, and yourself, and me.
Nick: Thanks.

They return to the car and wait for the girl to exit the building. Nick sees her walking and he and Masahiri follow her on foot. She stops at a safety deposit box and changes clothes although she doesn't fool them. They spot her interacting with the guy that set up Charlie, handing him a bill from the safety deposit box. They follow him to a metal working factory. They tail him as he heads to a meeting where all the Japanese crime bosses including Sato are present. Sugai inspects the bill and asks Sato for the plate. He informs Sugai that handing over the plate would make him a dead man. Nick tells Masahiri to call in the police force. Sugai reveals that he sent one plate to America although Sato stole it and murdered his men. Sugai points out that Sato has no loyalty or respect. Sato counters that his own men respect him, and he wants his own territory. Sugai won't entertain his demands, and Sato leaves. Nick follows through the factory, pulling his gun and telling Sato to hold it,and firing a shot, before he can get on his motorcycle. Sato's men split up and try to find Nick. Sato then addresses Nick in English, saying "Here I am, Nick. Near, almost as near as when you let Charlie die. Masahiri returns and fires at the thug they followed to the factory as he's about to shoot Nick. Nick fires at him as well, killing him. Sato and his other henchman take off on motorcycles. Nick chases them and shoots the henchmen. The police stop Nick before he can reach Sato. Ohashi scolds him for having a gun. Nick is angry that Sato is getting away. Ohashi has Nick put in the back of a police car and tells him they're putting him on a plane, to be arrested if he returns. Masahiri gives Ohashi a solemn look and we see Nick on the plane. He sneaks out just as the doors are closing and visits Masahiri's place. He tells Masahiri he needs his help, but he replies "You should not have come." Masahiri's son tells Nick, "You've done enough." Masahiri tells him he's been suspended and can't help.

Nick: We can fix it, Mas.
Masahiri: You cannot fix everything. I am not like you. For a moment I thought I could be.
Nick: You can. You didn't do anything wrong, okay? We kicked ass.
Masahiri: It was for nothing. Nick-San, I belong to a group. They will not have me anymore.
Nick: You're digging a hole for yourself, Mas. Sometimes, you gotta go for it.
Masahiri: Get out. Please.

Nick leaves and makes a call to Joyce who agrees to meet him bringing him some food and cash. He asks her about Sugai and she tells him he plays golf three times a week at a certain course. He thanks her for taking a risk to help him. We see Nick show up at the golf course. Sugai's men frisk him. To get an audience, he asks one of the men to give Sugai one of the bills he took. Sugai agrees to meet, but his men beat Nick in the parking lot and put him in a car. We see Masahiri in his car, driving in the rain. At Sugai's place, we see Sugai telling Nick he should be overseas by now. Sugai brags that the bills Nick had were only prototypes and the new ones will be perfect. Nick reveals that he knows Sato has one of the plates. Sugai says Sato "might as well be an American." since he only respects money.

Nick: So what are you into it for, Love?
Sugai: I was ten when the B-29's came. My family lived underground for three days. When we came up, the city was gone. Then, the heat brought rain, black rain. You made the rain black and shoved your values down our throats. We forgot who we were. You created Sato and the thousands like him. I'm paying you back.
Nick: Hey, you want the plate? You get me close to him.
Sugai: You have no part in this. I promised the other Oyabuns there would be peace.
Nick: They don't have to know.
Sugai: I'm bound by duty and honor. If you had time, I would explain what that means.
Nick: Sugai-san, I am the solution to your problems. I can take him out, ok? I'm nothing but a worthless Gaijin, and everybody knows he killed my partner.
Sugai: Yeah, right in front of you. I'm not impressed.
Nick: You get me close, I'll hit the mark, and you're going to be clean.
Sugai: Why should I trust you?
Nick: Because you got nothing to lose.

We see Nick getting dropped off in the road just outside a farm property, by Sugai's men. They throw Nick a shotgun. Sugai tells him that four Oyabuns will arrive shortly including Sato and his lieutenant. Sugai drives away to the meeting place. Nick makes his way on foot through brush. We see the Oyabuns arrive. Nick is startled by a sudden movement which turns out to be Masahir, taking out a guard posing as a farmer, who had the drop on Nick. Masahiri tells Nick "Sometimes, you got to go for it." Nick says "Thanks, pal." Masahir identifies the man he killed as one of Sato's men. Nick concludes. "He's got his own double cross going on." They look at the men working the fields and Nick asks how many of the farmers are Sato's men. Nick surprises Masahiri by announcing that he's going in. He asks him to cover the front. Nick approaches under cover as Sato pulls up to the building. Sato shows the plate he stole and enters. The Oyabuns tell him to have a seat. He's scolded for not valuing the Yakuza code, but he assures them he will be loyal if granted recognition. He's asked for the plate and he sets it on the table. When an Oyabun attempts to grab it, Sato stops him and asks to see Sugai's plate. Sugai tells him it's "in a safe place." Sato releases the plate for Sugai's inspection. Sugai demands that Sato atone for his misdeeds "in the traditional manner." or there will be no truce. Sato agrees.Sato is handed a small sword.

Nick and Masahiri watch the farmers, taking out those who appear to be Sato's men. Sato ties off his pinkie with a cloth and cuts it off for Sugai. Sugai then has his plate retrieved and asks Sato to sit with him. Nick gets into the building and finds another guard. Outside, Masahiri notices other farmers producing guns. In the meeting, Sato stabs Sugai through the hand as Nick fires on Sato's guard inside. Outside the "farmers" open fire on the Oyabuns' men. Sato runs from the building, Nick missing a clear shot because his shotgun was empty. Masahiri exchanges fire with Sato's men, while Nick chases Sato both on dirt-bikes, through the fields. They both wipe out and fight hand to hand. Sato notices Nick eyeing a sharp stake sticking up from the ground. We next see Nick and Masahiri escorting Sato into the Police Department. Ohashi speaks to him in Japanese. Later we see Masahiri and Nick presented with awards at a ceremony. Joyce is present, and Nick thanks her "for choosing a side."

Masahiri accompanies Nick to the airport. He tells Nick that they never found the plates. Nick tells him "Well, some lucky bastard, he's probably set for life." Masahiri presents Nick with a present, saying "It's for your kids." He gives Masahiri a present and Masahiri offers his hand saying "Good friends do this." Masahiri opens his present and finds a shirt, with the plates hidden underneath it. He calls to Nick who looks back and smiles before boarding his plane.




6 comments:

J.D. said...

Excellent review! Man, I haven't thought about this film in ages and actually saw it first run when it was released. I would say that the film's script is its weakest aspect. I mean, you can pretty much figure out that Andy Garcia is going to be the doomed partner who's gonna get it at some point during the film and, of course, Douglas plays the loose cannon cop that doesn't play by the rules.

But the actors do their best to make it work. Naturally, the cinematography and set design are incredible with some shots of the Japanese cityscape evoking BLADE RUNNER.

I really do need to watch this again. It has been ages.

Brent Allard said...

Thanks J.D.! It had been a while since I saw it too, but it's one of those films that stays with you. Totally agree with your points, it's formulaic but enjoyable. The atmosphere is just incredible and the performances hit all the right notes. There are definitely some wholes in the script, the ending in particular, but it's likeable enough that they don't ruin it

Melissa Bradley said...

Terrific review and summation. Sorry i didn't get here sooner. This was only the second time I had seen Andy Garcia and he blew me away. He's an actor that really blends into the cast, yet brings a definite energy that gives him a stand out quality. he really held his own against Michael Douglas. Takakura was brilliant as well.

Ironically enough, Black Rain is also the title of a Japanese film that came out that same year and referring to the fallout you mentioned. Fallout and aftermath are central ideas to this film. There's the fallout of Nick's shady dealings, the fallout from Sato's escape, etc. Then there's the aftermath of Charlie's death.

I love that this film is set in Osaka instead of Tokyo or Kyoto, the typical settings for film, depending on whether one wants a contemporary or historical look. Osaka is a fascinating Pittsburgh or Chicago-like city. Scott did a great job giving us a slice of Japanese culture.

So much to say about this film, but I think I'm starting to ramble so I'm shutting up. LOL I'm a huge fan of the movie and this was an awesome read. :)

Brent Allard said...

Hi Mel! Great points, I like your mention of the other "Black Rain" film. Yes, it was an actual occurrence! I've been meaning to see that one for ages.Yes, the Japanese environment was a huge part of the film. Scott creates atmosphere through environment like no one else!

Russell_Oz said...

A truly great review, Brent!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and remembering all the reasons I love BLACK RAIN and why I rate it as one of my favourite movies of all time.

I think it's the themes and parallels in the movie that make me love it as much as I do.

Also Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, and Ken Takakura are some of my favourite actors.

Again, a great review!

Brent Allard said...

Hey Russell! Thanks for checking it out! It's definitely a film that stays with you for years after you watch. It is a great trio!