Black Rain (1989 American film)

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Black Rain
Black Rain.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott
Written by
Produced byStanley R. Jaffe
Sherry Lansing
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byTom Rolf
Music byHans Zimmer
  • Jaffe-Lansing Productions
  • Pegasus Film Partners
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 22, 1989 (1989-09-22)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Japanese
Budget$30 million[1]
Box office$134.2 million

Black Rain is a 1989 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Craig Bolotin and Warren Lewis. It stars Michael Douglas, Andy García, Ken Takakura, and Kate Capshaw and features Yūsaku Matsuda (in his final film role before his death that year) and Shigeru Kōyama. The film focuses on two NYPD officers who arrest a member of the Yakuza and must escort him back to Japan. Once there, he escapes, and the two officers find themselves dragged deeper and deeper into the Japanese underworld.

Black Rain was released by Paramount Pictures on September 22, 1989. It received much publicity beforehand as it was Douglas's first film in two years and the first since his Oscar winning role in the film Wall Street. Upon release, the film received generally mixed to positive reviews from critics, which praised the performances, action sequences, Hans Zimmer's musical score, direction and editing but criticized the screenwriting, clichéd story and lack of character development. In the years since, the film has become a major cult film and has been widely praised.

Black Rain was also a huge box office hit with grossing over $134 million worldwide in front of a production budget of $30 million, and was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.


Nick Conklin is a New York City police officer facing possible criminal charges; Internal Affairs believes Nick was involved with his partner, who was caught taking criminal money in a corruption scandal. Nick, who has financial difficulties, is divorced from his wife, who has custody of their two children.

At a restaurant, Nick and his partner Charlie Vincent observe two Japanese men meeting with Mafia gangsters. Nick's suspicions are validated when another Japanese man enters the restaurant, seizes a small package at gunpoint, kills two people, and leaves. Nick and Charlie chase and arrest the suspect after he nearly kills Nick. Sato is to be extradited to Osaka and given to the police there. Though angered that Sato will not be prosecuted in the US, Nick agrees to escort him. Nick's captain believes it will keep Nick from causing more trouble and exacerbating the already biased Internal Affairs investigation.

During the flight to Japan on board a Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-100 and when they arrive in Osaka, they surrender Sato to the Japanese police, only to discover that they were duped by impostors. Nick convinces the Osaka police to allow them to observe the investigation, though their weapons are confiscated. They are assigned to Masahiro Matsumoto. Nick behaves rudely and offends Matsumoto, while Charlie attempts to be more polite. Nick also makes contact with an American nightclub hostess, Joyce, who explains that Nick and Charlie represent American inefficiency and stupidity to the Japanese. Through her, Nick discovers Sato is fighting a gang war with a notorious crime boss, Sugai, and traveled to New York to disrupt Sugai's counterfeiting scheme.

Nick joins a police raid without permission and takes a few $100 bills from the crime scene. The next day, Matsumoto explains they have dishonored themselves, him, and the police force by his theft, which has been reported in America; Nick calls him a snitch and demonstrates the money is counterfeit by burning one of the bills. At night, Nick and Charlie walk back to their hotel drunk and unescorted, despite warnings about their safety. In an apparent prank, a young motorcyclist steals Charlie's coat and leads him to an underground parking garage. The motorcyclist turns out to be one of Sato's henchman and has lured Charlie into a trap. Separated from Charlie, Nick watches in horror as Sato and several others briefly torture Charlie before Sato beheads him. Joyce comforts the distraught Nick at her apartment. Later, Matsumoto hands him Charlie's service revolver.

As Matsumoto and Nick trail one of Sato's operatives, Nick admits he stole money in New York. The operative retrieves a sample counterfeit note, which she passes to a gangster. Nick and Matsumoto tail him to a steel foundry, where they find Sato is meeting Sugai, and the package from New York is a printing plate for American $100 bills. Nick confronts Sato, who escapes when swarming police arrest Nick for waving a gun in public. Though deported, Nick sneaks off the plane to pursue Sato on his own, as Matsumoto has been suspended and demoted. Joyce helps him meet Sugai, who explains that making counterfeit US currency is his revenge for the "black rain", or nuclear fallout, after the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. Nick suggests a deal where Sugai can use Nick to retrieve the stolen plate from Sato, leaving Sugai's reputation and hands clean.

Sugai drops Nick at a remote farm with a shotgun. Matsumoto arrives, and they deduce Sato plans a massacre. During a meeting with Sugai, Sato cuts off one of his fingers in atonement, stabs Sugai, and escapes with the plates, prompting a gunfight between Sugai's and Sato's men. Sato escapes the fight on a dirt bike, Nick pursues, and the two fight briefly. Nick gains the advantage and, having Sato at his mercy, has the choice of whether or not to kill Sato for Charlie and all the humiliation he has suffered. Matsumoto and Nick walk a handcuffed Sato into police headquarters to the amazement of everyone and later receive commendations, which Nick accepts gratefully.

Before boarding his flight home, Nick thanks Matsumoto for his assistance and friendship, and gives him a dress shirt in a gift box. Underneath it, Matsumoto finds the counterfeit printing plates.


Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan was originally approached to play the role of Sato, but instead turned it down as he felt audiences did not want to see him play a "bad" character.[2] Harrison Ford and Kurt Russell were strongly considered for the role of Nick Conklin, before Michael Douglas was cast due to his favorable relationship with producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe.


Director Paul Verhoeven was originally attached to direct, but, after a slow development process, left to helm Total Recall (1990).[3] He would later collaborate with Douglas on Basic Instinct (1992).[4]

The film began shooting in November 1988 and ended in March 1989. Japanese actor Yūsaku Matsuda, who played Sato, died of bladder cancer shortly after the film's completion.[5] Director Ridley Scott dedicated the film to his memory.

The high cost and red tape involved in filming in Japan prompted director Scott to declare that he would never film in that country again.[6] Scott was eventually forced to leave the country and complete the final climactic scene (which included American character actor Al Leong) in Napa Valley, California.

This film marks the first collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Ridley Scott. He would go on to score several more films for Scott, including Thelma and Louise, Hannibal, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Matchstick Men.

Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto contributed the song "Laser Man" to the film's soundtrack.[7]


Large parts of Black Rain were filmed in Osaka, although some of the locations have changed somewhat since the late 1980s when production took place. The original intention of Ridley Scott was to film in the Kabukicho nightlife district of Shinjuku, Tokyo. However, the Osaka authorities were more receptive towards film permits so the similarly futuristic neon-infused Dōtonbori in Namba was chosen as the principal filming location in Japan.

An aerial shot of Osaka bay at sunset with the estuaries of the Yodogawa, Kanzakigawa and Ajigawa rivers frames the opening sequence of the arrival into Japan.

The main filming location in Osaka is by the Ebisubashi bridge. The futurist Kirin Plaza building (architect Shin Takamatsu, built 1987), the Ebisubashi and the famous neon wall overlooking the Dōtonbori canal creates the Blade Runner-esque mise-en-scène.

Umeda, Osaka's northern centre, is represented by the first floor shopping mall concourse of Hankyu Umeda station Terminal Building. Resembling a futuristic neo-gothic nave from a cathedral, this is where Charlie Vincent's (Andy Garcia) jacket is stolen by a bosozoku biker. Because the production could not finish the segment in Japan, Charlie's demise, the subsequent escalator chase and car park scenes, replete with appropriate Japanese signs, were shot in downtown Los Angeles.

The now removed Shinsaibashi bridge (dismantled in 1995), Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Market, Nippon Steel Works in Sakai City (south Osaka), Kyobashi, the elevated Hanshin Expressway, Osaka Castle and Nanko Port Town also feature briefly, as well as the Motomachi shopping district of neighbouring Kobe.

In New York City, the 1964 World Expo's Unisphere opens the film, followed by Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) riding over the Queensboro Bridge. The illegal bike race between Nick and an anonymous challenger took place from underneath the west underside of the Brooklyn Bridge north to the Manhattan Bridge.


The soundtrack had various artists with the score composed by Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack was originally released as a 7-track album in 1989 by Virgin Movie Music on cassette, vinyl and compact disc.[8] However, it was re-released in 2012 by La-La Land Records in limited edition as a two-disc package.[9]

Black Rain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1."Livin' on the Edge of the Night" (Iggy Pop)Eric Rackin, Jay Rifkin3:40
2."The Way You Do the Things You Do" (UB40)Robert Rogers, William Robinson3:15
3."Back to Life (Jam On The Groove Mix)" (Soul II Soul Featuring Caron Wheeler)Beresford Romeo, Paul Hooper, Simon Law5:09
4."Laserman" (Ryuichi Sakamoto)Sakamoto4:49
5."Singing in the Shower" (Les Rita Mitsouko and Sparks)Ron Mael, Russell Mael4:24
6."I’ll Be Holding On" (Gregg Allman)Hans Zimmer, Will Jennings5:40
7."Black Rain Suite - Sato, Charlie Loses his Head, Sugai, Nick & Masa"Hans Zimmer4:45, 7:03, 6:55, 2:52
Total length:48:26


Black Rain was released in the United States on September 22, 1989, and in the Philippines on February 1, 1990.[10] It was screened as the opening film at the 3rd Tokyo International Film Festival in October 1989 and shown as the Special Invitational Screening film. Ken Takakura attended the event.[11] It was later screened at the Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei.[12]

Home Media[edit]

Black Rain was first released in the U.S. on Blu-ray Special Collector's Edition in 2007 by Paramount Pictures with six extra features including audio commentary by director Ridley Scott, a two-part "Making of Black Rain" documentary, a 20-minute featurette about the script and cast and a 12-minute segment looking at the post-production.[13] It was first released in the UK in 2008.[14] The same edition was re-released by Warner Bros. in 2013.[15]


Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, Black Rain grossed $9.6 million in 1,610 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office.[16] It stayed at the #1 spot for two more weeks.[17] At the Japanese box office, Black Rain was the fifth top-grossing foreign film of 1989, earning ¥1.35 billion in distributor rentals.[18] The film grossed a total of $46.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $88 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $134.2 million.[19]

Critical response[edit]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film "plays as if it had been written in the course of production. There seems to have been more desperation off the screen than ever gets into the movie. As bad movies go, however. the American 'Black Rain' is easy to sit through, mostly because of the way Mr. Scott and his production associates capture the singular look of contemporary urban Japan."[20] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and stated, "Even given all of its inconsistencies, implausibilities and recycled cliches, Black Rain might have been entertaining if the filmmakers had found the right note for the material. But this is a designer movie, all look and no heart, and the Douglas character is curiously unsympathetic."[21] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded the same two-star grade and wrote, "The crosscultural action picture might have worked if the filmmakers had come up with a script in which Douglas' character had been rendered weak and confused by being a fish trying to swim in strange waters. But instead he is presented as a traditional action hero dominating everyone in sight. The cultural imperialism of that decision makes for a routine and frequently offensive story full of Asian stereotypes."[22]

A review in Variety stated, "Since this is a Ridley Scott film, 'Black Rain' is about 90% atmosphere and 10% story. But what atmosphere! This gripping crime thriller about hardboiled N.Y. cop Michael Douglas tracking a yakuza hood in Osaka, Japan, boasts magnificent lensing by Jan DeBont and powerfully baroque production design by Norris Spencer."[23] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times described the plot as "standard '80s schtick" but called the visuals "hellaciously gorgeous" and concluded that "action movies are one genre where clichés can be transcended and execution can triumph over content. That's what happens here."[24] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post wrote that Scott "approaches this prickly action thriller with the gusto of a sushi chef in a fish storm. Unfortunately and typically, he loses sight of his story in this artistic barrage of blood and guts. It's a gorgeous, erratic movie most definitely not for those with an aversion to cutlery."[25]

The film holds a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews.[26] On Metacritic it has a score of 56% based on reviews from 18 critics.[27]

In retrospect, Michael Douglas said: “It was hard to know who to root for. And people here were uncomfortable with race stuff and talking about the bomb. There was a critic, who'll remain nameless, who called it a racist film. I called him up and asked, "Have you ever been to Japan?". He said, "No", and I said, "Then what the hell are you talking about?". The Japanese loved it. I loved it—I thought it rocked from top to bottom.“[citation needed]

During an interview on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron in November 2021, Scott called the film “f*cking great“.[28]

Black Rain was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester) and Best Sound Effects Editing. (Milton Burrow and William Manger) [29]


  1. ^ "Black Rain". The Numbers. Retrieved 2015-06-09.
  2. ^ Logan, Bey. "Hong Kong Superstar Jackie Chan Owes As Much To Charlie Chaplin As He Does To Bruce Lee", Black Belt, January 1994, p.35.
  3. ^ "Triple Dutch: Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi trilogy". Empire. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  4. ^ Verhoeven, Paul (1992-03-20), Basic Instinct (Drama, Mystery, Thriller), Carolco Pictures, Canal+, retrieved 2022-02-23
  5. ^ "Yusaku Matsuda, 39, Japanese Movie Actor". The New York Times. 9 November 1989.
  6. ^ According to the commentary on the Criterion DVD of Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
  7. ^ "Black Rain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  8. ^ Black Rain - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic
  9. ^ Archived 2018-03-17 at the Wayback Machine - Black Rain ..
  10. ^ "Opens Today". Manila Standard. Standard Publishing, Inc. 1 February 1990. p. 17. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  11. ^ In memoriam: Ken Takakura, Actor | Tokyo International Film Festival
  12. ^ BLACK RAIN | Directed by RIDLEY SCOTT | United States, 1989
  13. ^ Black Rain Blu-ray | United States | Paramount Pictures | 1989 | 125 min | Rated R | Jan 23, 2007
  14. ^ Black Rain Blu-ray | United Kingdom | Special Collector's Edition Paramount Pictures | 1989 | 125 min | Rated BBFC: 15 | Sep 08, 2008
  15. ^ Black Rain Blu-ray | United States | Warner Bros. | 1989 | 125 min | Rated R | Jan 01, 2013
  16. ^ Cerone, Daniel (26 September 1989). "Black Rain, 'Sea of Love' Tops at Box Office WEEKEND BOX OFFICE". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Black Rain (1989) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  18. ^ "過去興行収入上位作品". Eiren (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. 1989. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Black Rain (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  20. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 22, 1989). "Police Chase a Gangster In a Bright, Menacing Japan". The New York Times. C12.
  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 22, 1989). "Black Rain Movie Review". Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  22. ^ Siskel, Gene (September 22, 1989). "'Black Rain' steers down the wrong course". Chicago Tribune. Section 7, Page A.
  23. ^ "Film Reviews: Black Rain". Variety. September 20, 1989. 28.
  24. ^ Wilmington, Michael (September 22, 1989). "'Black Rain' a Blast of Fiery Razzle-Dazzle". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1, 16.
  25. ^ Kempley, Rita (September 22, 1989). "'Black Rain': All Guts, No Story". The Washington Post. B1.
  26. ^ "Black Rain (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  27. ^ "Black Rain". Metacritic.
  28. ^ Hailu, Selome (November 22, 2021). "Ridley Scott Blames Millennials for 'The Last Duel' Box Office Failure". Variety. Archived from the original on November 22, 2021. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  29. ^ "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 17 October 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • An academic comparative study of Black Rain (American film) and Black Rain (Japanese film), entitled "Nuclear Bomb Films in Japan and America: Two Black Rain Films" by Yoko Ima-Izumi included in Essays on British and American Literature and Culture: From Perspectives of Transpacific American Studies edited by Tatsushi Narita (Nagoya: Kougaku Shuppan, 2007)

External links[edit]