Black Rain: Special Edition

Black Rain: Special Edition (1989)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer

Ridley Scott's dark thriller "Black Rain" is often getting the short shrift compared to his other, more prestigious movies. In many ways I think, undeservedly so. "Black Rain" is a solid thriller with a great cast and a cool backdrop. Paramount Home Entertainment has now given the movie the Special Edition treatment and I was eager to take a closer look.

Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) is a rough cop in New York who's under investigation for corruption, skimming money off busted drug deals. When a cold-blooded murder occurs in which a Japanese Mafia hitman called Sato is captured Conklin and his partner Charlie (Andy Garcia) are ordered to extradite the prisoner to Japan. There they hand him over to what they thought were the proper authorities. Seconds later it turns out they were impostors, however, and the prisoner has disappeared. Strangers in a strange land, surrounded by a culture they do not in the least understand, the two NYPD cops try to work the case in Tokyo, much to the dismay of the local authorities. But soon they learn that their New York city beat has not prepared them for what it is like to serve justice in the land of the rising sun.

Featuring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia in the leads, and supplementing them with Ken Takakura and Kate Capshaw, the film is a wonderful dive into neon-bathed Tokyo. Beautiful and mysterious on the one hand the film nicely brings out the dark side of it, too, creating a city that is harsh, imposing and intimidatingly alien.
The story is well plotted out and Ridley Scott does a great job keeping the suspense up and the viewer on the edge of their seats for the most part of the movie. It is easy to understand Conklin's corrupt morals, even though the viewer will not excuse them, and introducing him to the Japanese lifestyle were honor stands above all, the film does a great job allowing its characters – and the viewers subsequently – re-evaluate their values.

Paramount Home Entertainment's new Special Edition presents the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The print is clean and clear and without any defects or blemishes. Grain is evident at times but it is never distracting and part of Ridley Scott's visual vocabulary to give the film a certain edge and grittiness. The colors of the transfer are vibrant and solid, while black levels are deep and solid, bringing out the stark contrasts that Scott is painting with the camera. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are noticeable.

The DVD contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital EX audio track in English that is aggressive and constantly active. The use of the split surrounds is marvelous and the combined rear-center channel is also put to good use occasionally for cool effects. Overall the tracks frequency response and good bass extension make for a powerful presentation while the dynamic range ensures all details and subtle ambient effects are also coming through without problems. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

As extras the DVD also contains a commentary track featuring Ridley Scott. He discusses the origins and making of the film in quite some detail here and also elaborates a little more on his intentions and the difficulties of making the culture clash tangible in a motion picture.

Also included are a number of featurettes, covering various aspects of the movie's production, such as the film's casting, the making of the film and the post-production. They are well put together and interesting to view with good information and material to follow the film's genesis. Also included is the movie's theatrical trailer.

"Black Rain" is a solid thriller that has plenty of twists and interesting characters. It has been put together nicely by Ridley Scott in a manner that nicely reflects his signature in every frame. Paramount's new Special Edition is definitely worth a look so make sure to add it to your shopping list.