American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The grim specter of Osaka dominates "Black Rain" the same way Gotham City looms over "Batman." It's a vast, dingy, polluted and cheerless metropolis, with hideous neon advertisements climbing up into the sulfurous skies. Down below where the people live, there are nightclubs like burrows, where evil men plot and scheme. The movie sends two New York cops on a mission into this vision of hell; they have to recapture a vicious gangster who has disappeared into the underworld of the Yakuza - the Japanese Mafia.
I've seen Osaka in a lot of movies, but it's never looked quite like this before, not even in violent thrillers. The director, Ridley Scott, must have been bewitched by memories of the futuristic Los Angeles he created for "Blade Runner" (1982). The difference is that in "Blade Runner" the characters inhabited their city, and in "Black Rain" they are crushed by it. The production design (by Norris Spencer) is so overwhelming that the characters seem lost and upstaged; frequently the humans are not even the most interesting things on the scene.
The film stars Michael Douglas as a detective with questionable ethics who captures a Japanese gangster after he commits a bloody double murder in New York. Douglas and his partner (Andy Garcia) are assigned to escort the killer (Yusaku Matsuda) back to Osaka, where they ineptly hand him over to his fellow gangsters, disguised as cops.
Determined to recapture the man, they team up with an Osaka cop (Ken Takakura), after which the plot settles down into a predictable routine.