I Saw A Film!

Brrrrrack Rain, fell on Hiroshima after the bomb, and that somehow fits into the narrative of this tough, gritty Michael Douglas cop film set in Japan and helmed by Ridley Scott. There is something of a gang war going on and the NYC detectives (Douglas and Andy Garcia) are needed to extradite a particularly ferocious yakuza baddie back to Japan. It’s a bit like a Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello’s The Protector from 1985, and it looks like this sort of action adventure set in an exotic location was working in the box office at the time.

The lowdown is that Douglas’s character is one of those intolerable, verging on racist, thugs whose narrowly redeeming quality is that he manages to get the hard jobs done, while his side-kick (Garcia) plays sweet and competent (Dirty Harry in Japan anyone?). The Japanese cast is excellent, and at 24 years old I loved this film. I dug all the what-I-took-for-culture and the contemporary sights of Osaka (according to IMDB). The Americans are babysat by a very weary Japanese detective, played by the wonderful Ken Takakura, who by the end has learned a few things from Americans (sometimes you have to go for it) while he has taught the gruff and difficult Douglas character a thing or two about honor and respect. Who doesn’t love a cultural exchange movie? Too bad there isn’t a sweet Japanese damsel for Douglas to rescue from some seedy organized criminal enterprise, instead there’s Chicago transplant Kate Capshaw in a rather boring role, but one so screamably decked-out in 80s high fashion she kind of parades around like a flagship for a Psychedelic Furs video!

Further lowdown, you’re gonna see a lot of motorcycles. This film is padded out with plenty of motorcycle play, lots of exhaust and revving engines, and Douglas even wins a bike race in the first act that never really ends up being a skill of particular import later in the film. Even the lobby card has him perched on a bike, but the yakuza are the biker thugs in Osaka. When the NYC boys get into trouble in Japan (because, you know, Douglas isn’t playing by the rules) the chief of police removes their guns and unfortunately this leaves them helpless to a violent biker incident (it’s a little like every episode of Star Trek where they could have just been beamed away from the problem– something always had to interfere with that and the old writers of the show complained that it soon turned into the hardest part of the writing! Does everything remind me of Star Trek? Yes it does.)

So, is a Dirty Harry cop a necessary feature of successfully fighting a powerful criminal? I feel like this old message from these old films endlessly implies that while we might not like the way the job gets done by these rogue officers nothing else was going to work. But is that really a great message to plaster all over your action adventure? I’m less and less, as I get older, impressed with the rogue “ass” who offends everyone, gets his partner killed, and through some miracle of mindless revenge doggedness catches the bad guy (wonderfully played by Yusaku Matsuda and died later that year of cancer!) and ends up a hero. I suspect this sort of thing isn’t unusual, and that we’ve long been surrounded by thugs who’ve been turned into heroes through their stubborn focus (It brings to mind The Naked and the Dead by Mailer, where pure luck favors the boors and the slugs while punishing true self-less heroes with mud graves in jungles, or at the bottom of the sea). But if you skip this little concern (this Frank Zappa was a genius, or Frank Zappa was an ass who abused his friends who made him famous) you can really enjoy this this dark and violent film. Of course, we’d all work with the Japanese as best we could, not behave like imperial superior asses on foreign shores.

hey this one is FREE on Prime . . . and if you’ve never seen it, it has some charm. And it’s almost as good as Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello.

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