A double-dip with a great new documenatry.
The tranfer is incredibly ugly to watch on an HDTV, very dissapointing considering that this is a double-dip.
The year is 1989 and so far in that decade we had some pretty cheesy action films. However, Ridley Scott took his approach to this story that if handled by anyone else would have ended up probably like any other 80's action flick. The story follows a renegade cop played by Michael Douglas and his partner played by Andy Garcia as they travel to Japan to deliver a convicted Japanese murderer back to the Japanese police to be imprisoned. When they arrive they are met by the police and hand over the prisoner, but things aren't that easy. The seemingly legit police officers were actually in disguise, and now Nick and Charlie clash with the Japanese culture and with their assigned guide from the Japanese police played by Ken Takakura.
The film follows the formula and if you put your head to it then of course this film will seem unoriginal, but that's not the point. I don't think anyone on the film thought they were creating a masterpiece. Ridley Scott is best known for creating worlds and really utilizing the setting of a film to shape the characters. Here he has Japan, a completely foreign land to most Americans, and he utilizes the setting perfectly. The film is very dark, color-wise. Most of the scenes take place at night and that's where we get the film's really vibrant lighting. Jan De Bont's cinematography really brings notice to the concrete jungle that is Japan and most of the scenes are lit by neon and florescent lights. This adds a harsh dark side to Michael Douglas' character, and that's appropriate since he is a flawed hero. Nick (Douglas) is not a likeable character at all, and that is why Charlie (Andy Garcia) is his partner. Charlie brings humor and charm to the film and the first half of the picture is actually carried on that character. Once we are focused on Douglas's character the film picks up speed and really opens more of his character as he builds a relationship with the Japanese policeman, Matsumoto (Takakura).
Michael Douglas gives his character a rough edge and he closes him up for the first two acts, and not until the third act do we see him start to open up. Douglas does a great job at crafting this flawed character. Andy Garcia is perfect as Douglas's opposite and brings the movie much needed life. Ken Takakura who has not done any American films besides this is great as a supporting character. Our villain is played by Yusaka Matsuda, one of those typical 80's action bad guys who doesn't talk that much and is all about the stare. It's the acting and the characters that makes this film's plot stand out from the rest, because if it were not for the characters then this movie would be forgotten in a month. Yes, Ridley Scott did craft the film into his style, and that did wonders for it, but if he had flat characters then it would be wasted.
The old release was barebones, and surprisingly I was impressed with what was put together for this release. The bonus features consist of a "making of" documentary broken into 4 parts. The first part is about the pre-production of the film and runs for about 28 minutes. They go into the script and how they cast the film, it's great stuff. The production of the film is broken into two sections, a 20 minute part and a 7 minute part. They talk about the problems they had filming in Japan and how it was completely different than filming in America. We hear from the costume designer, the producers, the actors, Jan De Bont and his goals for the look of the film, and of course Ridley. The post production section talks about editing the film, scoring the film, and then the release of the film and public response.
Hans Zimmer gets significant screen time and talks about his first film with Ridley Scott which would later lead to an incredible partnership. Zimmer is my idol and it was great watching him discuss this early work of his that would later become the structure for his scores to Batman Begins and The Last Samurai. There is also lots of resemblance to his score to Rain Man, which is how Ridley discovered him.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was pretty bothered by the picture unfortunately. This transfer does not handle black well at all. In some scenes you can barely see the actors' faces, and I know that was not intentional from a creative standpoint. Jan De Bont's vivid lighting is brought to life and the neon shines sharply, but the picture overall is very soft. You will notice the blurriness of the picture mostly at the end of the film in the wine vineyard because it takes place during the day. Overall, not to impressed, especially since this is a double-dip.
The sound on the other hand is top notch. The old disc had a Dolby 5.1 mix, but with this new release we have an incredibly dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix. The picture is more about the atmosphere than it is about action, but it definitely enriched the viewing experience.
The disc comes in your standard single case, but since it's Paramount you can expect those pesky plastic locks on the side.
The film follows the formula, but Scott brings a new point of view to it and created a memorable, exciting, and entertaining picture. This is not the best film ever made and it's not Scott's best film, but it's a great action film that does everything it sets out to do.
Black Rain was released September 22, 1989.