Follow TV Tropes


Film / Black Rain

Go To
Like Sylvester Stallone in Cobra, Michael Douglas is trying way too hard to look cool in this movie.

"An American Cop in Japan. Their country. Their laws. Their game. His rules."

Black Rain is a 1989 American action-thriller film, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Douglas, Andy GarcĂ­a, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw and Yusaku Matsuda. Hans Zimmer composed most of the soundtrack, with "Laserman" being the work of Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Detective Nick Conklin didn't need any more complications in his life. His ex-wife, the alimony payments, the rest of his bills, his kids, the occasional motorcycle street race and the Internal Affairs department investigating him for corruption were more than enough to keep him busy. But things really got interesting one day when he was eating lunch with his partner Charlie Vincent, and they happen to look over and see a known Mafia capo eating lunch and doing business with some Japanese gentlemen. Then a second group of Japanese men come into the restaurant, kill that first group, then flee. Nick and Charlie go after them, and after a tough chase that nearly costs Nick his life, they manage to bring the leader in.

It turns out the guy they caught is called Sato, and he's a notorious member of the Yakuza who is at the top of the wanted lists back in Japan. To get Nick out of the way of the IA investigation, and let him clear his head, their captain has Nick and Charlie escort Sato back to Osaka. Before they're even off the plane, they are met by a couple of detectives who take Sato off their hands. Looks like it's time to relax and take it easy on a nice little vacation... and then about a minute later the real detectives show up looking for Sato. Turns out those other guys were Sato's men.


Desperate not to give further fuel to IA, (and maybe to just do something right) Nick insists on staying in Japan to assist the Japanese police catch Sato. (Not that most of the local cops want anything to do with the pair of them). Older detective Masahiro Matsumoto becomes their guide as they get drawn deeper and deeper into the Yakuza's underworld, an underworld which is on the brink of a major confrontation...

The film was nominated for Oscars in Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Trailer.

Compare with The Yakuza, a Sydney Pollack film with a similar plot but a different take on themes.

Not to be confused with Peter Weir's The Last Wave, which was released in America as Black Rain. Or the Masuji Ibuse novel of the same name (later filmed by Shohei Imamura, also released in 1989). Or the various documentaries about the end of WWII with similar titles.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • Badass Biker: Nick himself is one, as he participates in street races for cash and is implied to win in most cases. Sato just happens to lead a gang of biker criminals as well.
  • Big Bad: Koji Sato, The Unfettered gangster looking to claim control of a large section of the Japanese underworld.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Nick has a habit of assuming that the Japanese don't understand him when they don't immediately respond, only to run headfirst into this trope.
    Nick Conklin: Just hope they got a Nip in this building who speaks fucking English.
    Matsumoto Masahiro: [overhearing] Assistant Inspector Matsumoto Masahiro, Criminal Investigation section, Osaka Prefecture police. And I do speak fucking English.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Mas is a principled cop who does good work, and does it by the book, although being around Nick convinces him that there are times when rules need to be bent for the greater good.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The first scene of the movie involves Nick participating in and winning a motorcycle street race. At the very end of the movie, Nick has to attempt to catch Sato on a motorcycle.
  • Could Say It, But...: After Charlie gets killed, Masahiro hands Nick Charlie's personal effects, and tells him how the Japanese have a tradition of taking a single object from the deceased to remember them. The personal effects in question includes Charlie's confiscated firearm, and Nick is sorely in need of one. Nick gets the hint.
  • Counterfeit Cash: The basis of the Yakuza plan, counterfeit American money that is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
  • Cowboy Cop: Nick is one, and he's a big deconstruction of the trope. Nick gets a lot of flak from both American and Japanese cops for his methods, has an IA investigation ongoing, and has outright stolen drug money. He's wavering between being a flawed guy who tries to do something right and a selfish, self-righteous Jerkass making excuses for his own failings for most of the movie.
  • Culture Clash: The culture clash between the blunt, rude, xenophobic New York cops and the button downed, insular, bureaucratic Japanese counterparts plays a large role in the movie. And even beyond that, to say that Nick doesn't fit in with or get Japanese culture is quite an understatement.
  • Dangerously Garish Environment: This film makes neon-lit Osaka look like an especially dangerous and threatening environment for Strange Cop in a Strange Land NYPD detectives Nick and Charlie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joyce is pretty good at doing this routine. Nick is a sarcastic bastard himself and has his moments, but mostly lacks the required deadpan delivery. An example of Joyce's deadpan at work:
    Nick: Who else knows about this war? (Between Sato and Sugai)
    Joyce: Counting you and me? [beat] Eleven million people.
  • Dirty Cop: Nick really is stealing money.
  • Disappointed in You: Masashiro's understated response to Nick admitting that he stole money, which Charlie didn't know about.
    Masashiro: You shame him. And me. And yourself.
    Nick: [long pause] I know.
  • The Don: Sugai is an Oyabun in the Yakuza, and definitely gets the Vito Corleone treatment of being an old don from a past time with more morals and a Noble Demon approach, as opposed to the new generation led by Sato.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Meta-example: Yusaku Matsuda was dying of cancer while playing Sato. He passed away only weeks after the film debut.
  • Eagleland: Apparently the Japanese believe in this stereotype, and it shows in their scorn towards the protagonists. Nick, for his part, is not exactly diplomatic and doesn't do much to disprove some aspects of the stereotype, even when he's right.
  • Enemy Mine: Nick and Sugai make a deal in order to take down Sato.
  • The '80s: Exaggerated. As the custom of The '80s dictated, it ran solely on the Rule of Cool: tough cops which try too hard to be tough, fear of Japan's power, badassitude, bomber jackets, gritty postindustrial landscape alternating with neon-infested cities, gunslinging, ridiculously violent gangsterism, hot nightclub girls in Stripperiffic dresses, and Paul Verhoeven of RoboCop (1987) and Basic Instinct fame had been originally chosen to direct it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The traditional yakuza despise Sato's methods and attitude, leading to the Enemy Mine with Nick. Subverted when Sato points out that his yakuza boss had no problem with his methods when Sato still worked for him.
  • Fish out of Water: A large portion of the movie is simply watching Nick flail and fail as he tries to survive in Japan.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When handing Sato over to the fake cops, Nick looks slightly flummoxed that the paperwork the fake cops present is only in Japanese, and one can basically see the moment his face changes from that initial confusion to deciding to just be done with the whole thing and sign the paper. (And later it will be revealed that the form is not the one for a prisoner exchange at all, it was just brought because it looked official and would provoke that exact reaction from the American cops.) However the much bigger clue that something is amiss is that Sato seems strangely nonchalant and confident about the whole thing, even making a finger gun at Nick as the "cops" prepare to take him away. Then about thirty second later Nick and Charlie walk to the other end end of the plane and the actual cops are standing there and Nick almost immediately realizes that the first group of cops were fakes and they were tricked.
  • Funny Foreigners: The American cops are this to the Japanese. In particular, a couple of girls in a nightclub are very amused by Nick and Charlie getting tricked by Sato's men.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Nick's style of fighting. Well, that and a generous helping of Fighting Dirty.
  • The Heart: Charlie, who is relentlessly good natured, cheerful, and has a great way with people, usually to make them feel better about their problems.
  • Helpless Window Death: Sato and company separate Nick and Charlie and attack the latter while the former can only helplessly look on from behind a security gate.
  • Hollywood Law: Nick Conklin was told that he was a laughing stock for having signed over his prisoner to the Yakuza on insurance forms. Had the events been real, it would have paled in comparison to the lapse of Japan's police in not securing the plane at the airport before the Mob could board. Conklin could have also sued in International Court and would have been under no obligation to track down the suspect having successfully extradited him.
  • Hypocrite: Yakuza boss Sugai repeatedly lambasts Sato for his violent methods and not taking responsibility. Yet as Sato points out, Sugai didn't protest his actions when Sato was still under Sagai's command. And for all of Sugai's claims of having honor and taking responsibility for one's actions, he's still willing to ambush and kill Sato in an underhanded way that doesn't implicate Sugai himself.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Subverted. At the end of the final fight Nick is clearly considering doing this to Sato, and Sato's look seems to indicate that he expects Nick to do so. However, the scene cut shows Nick bringing Sato into the police precinct. Ridley Scott did shoot an alternative ending where Sato is impaled on a spike.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Sato's men plot to rescue him from Nick and Charlie as soon as they land in Osaka by pretending to be detectives carrying an arrest warrant for Sato, counting on the foreigners to not know Japanese and thus not notice that what they're brandishing is a housing contract. It works.
  • Internal Affairs: They've been busting Nick's friends, and now they're hot on his trail too.
  • It's Personal: After Charlie is murdered by Sato, Nick will do anything to bring Sato down.
  • Life of the Party: Charlie. The man certainly knows how to liven up a night of karaoke and drinks, for one.
  • The Mafia: Very brief appearance in the beginning of the film, making a deal with some yakuza.
  • Mighty Whitey: Although Nick comes off as uncouth, completely out of his depth in Japan and so on, he takes down Sato virtually singlehandedly, while all Japanese cops except Mas come off as useless, Obstructive Bureaucrats who haven't been able to do anything useful the whole time. (Or even before the movie started, for that matter).
  • Mob War: The tensions between Sato and Sugai's factions are simmering and just waiting to erupt.
  • Morality Pet: Criticising Nick directly doesn't get through to him. Pointing out that his stealing money shames Charlie does.
  • Motive Rant: Sugai gives a calm but anger filled one about why he despises America and is Yakuza.
    I was ten years old when the B-29 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. You shoved your values down our throats until we forgot who we were. You created Sato and the thousands like him. I'm paying you back.
  • Neon City: Osaka is full of neon lights; even the trucks driving around the city are covered in them. This makes Osaka look menacing and alien to the two NYPD detectives while they are in the city.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nick and Charlie think they're delivering a notorious criminal into custody, but they're actually playing right into his plans and he ends up going free. The rest of the movie is spent trying to fix this.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Nick shows some xenophobia, but he eventually gets better.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Though the movie takes place in Osaka, Japan's second city, none of the Japanese characters speak in the Osaka dialect. Rather, they all speak the standardized dialect, which is based on the Tokyo accent. Persons from Osaka would normally speak standard Japanese to somebody from another region, but it would be almost unheard of, in particular in the underworld, amongst people from Osaka.
  • Off with His Head!: How Sato kills Charlie.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: Used for a Chekhov's Gun. Nick and Charlie have to hand over their firearms to the Japanese police before they will let them work the case. After Charlie is murdered, his personal effects are handed over to Nick, who gives Charlie's badge to Sato...and keeps Charlie's pistol for himself.
  • Police Are Useless: At least the Japanese police are, judging by how the film depicts them. And American police are obnoxious, xenophobic, and morally compromised, but they can at least do something if pushed.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Nick. It appears he has some strong xenophobic feelings about Japanese people, or maybe even Asian people in general.
  • Racial Face Blindness: After Sato's cronies trick Nick and Charlie into releasing Sato to them, the American cops are made to look at mugshots to identify the men working with Sato. Predictably Nick has a lot of trouble telling different Asian men apart.
    Nick: Unbelievable, identical strangers.
  • Re-Cut: Scott's original cut was two hours and forty minutes long.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nick is simmering pot of passion and rage. Charlie and especially Mas contrast this by being more socially acceptable and easy going (in the case of Charlie) or calm and analytical foils.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Charlie will spend the first hour or so of the movie winning your heart... only for it to break when Sato and his men kill him.
  • Same Language Dub: The Japanese dub of the film is notable for being one of the few ones when this trope is mostly avoided, and for understandable reasons: Normally in Japan, when a Japanese actor or actors participate in a foreign film speaking in Japanese (or whatever language they were speaking in the original film) and when that film is brought to Japan, the actors themselves reprise those roles again in the dubbed version. In this film, due of the deaths of Yusaku Matsuda (Sato) and Tomisaburo Wakayama (Sugai), their roles were voiced by different voice actors. Oddly enough, in the Fuji TV version of the film, Sato's voice remains unchanged from the original English version, while in the DVD release, he was dubbed instead.
  • Sinister Shades: Sato and most of his gang wear these.
  • The Starscream: Sato was Sugai's lieutenant before starting a war with him for his own territory.
  • Sword Drag: Sato takes this up a few notches by doing this from on top of a moving motorcycle when he kills Charlie.
  • Tactful Translation: Charlie tries to soften Nick's words to the Japanese on occasion.
  • Title Drop: Sugai does this during his Motive Rant.
    Sugai: I was 10 when the B-29 came. My family lived underground for three days. We when came up the city was gone. Then the heat brought rain. Black Rain.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Charlie. Following a motorcycle gang into a deserted parking lot? Bad idea. Even worse not trying to run away once it's pretty obvious you've been set up.
  • Tricked into Signing: Sato's men, disguised as detectives, present Nick an official looking form in Japanese, claiming it's a document for the Americans to release Sato into the custody of Japanese police. Nick signs away and turns Sato over, only to learn a minute or two later that those guys were actually gangsters impersonating police. A little later in the movie Nick is told the form he signed was actually an application for insurance, and Sato's men brought it because they needed something that would appear at a glance to be some kind of official paperwork, which the American cops would be expecting, and knew that there was no way Nick would know what he was signing.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Nick. He is xenophobic, violent, semi-alcoholic and he has also illegally stolen some drug money but we see him trying to do the right thing throughout the film and he has his better moments too.
  • With This Herring: Nick and Charlie's guns are confiscated when they arrive in Japan. They then proceed to take on the Japanese underworld.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: At one point Mas voices the opinion that this happened to the US with regards to WWII. In his opinion, the US won the war, but forgot what made it work so well, while the Japanese learned from their own mistakes and American strengths and took over in peacetime. Of course, history hasn't treated Mas' point of view very well in the decades since...
    Mas: Perhaps you should think less of yourself and more of your group, try to work like in Japanese. I grew up with your soldiers; you were wise then. Now - music and movies are all America is good for. We make the machines, we build the future, we won the peace.
  • Yakuza: The main antagonists. Sato, the Big Bad, is an ambitious young Yakuza looking to claim his place alongside, or over, the older generation like Sugai, and he's willing to hijack their plans and schemes to do so.
  • Yubitsume: The villain does it, remarkably, as Sugai, his very traditional former boss, won't agree to a peace deal otherwise. It also has some plot relevance, as the fresh injury bothers Sato in his last fight with Nick, and aggravating the injury is what allows Nick to turn the fight in his favor.