While New York detective Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) and his partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) are in a Manhattan restaurant, they witness the brutal murder of several Japanese gangsters seated at a table with members of the U.S. Mafia. After capturing the killer, they are ordered to escort the prisoner back to Osaka, Japan. This is the set-up for the cross-cultural thriller Black Rain.

Divorced and under investigation by the internal affairs division, Nick is an angry and disillusioned man who is addicted to danger and resentful of authority figures. When he and Charlie lose their prisoner at the airport, they join forces with Matsu (Ken Takakura), an Osaka detective who speaks English. At a hostess bar, Nick meets Joyce (Kate Capshaw), an American who tells him that his lost prisoner is battling with older members of the Yazuka — "There's a war going on and they don't take prisoners."

Ridley Scott, who directed such films as Aliens, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, is a master of the action genre and a creative artist who knows how to make the most of exotic locations. Screenplay writers Craig Bolotin and Warren Lewis vividly convey the cultural clash between the two Americans and the Japanese police force. Distrust and ethnic stereotyping come across in their encounters.

The story's appeal, though, lies in the ethical transformation that takes place in the cynical and world-weary Nick. He finds his way back to the principled life through his slow-blooming friendship with Matsu, a detective whose code of honor is unflinching. Oddly enough Ken Takakura, the actor who plays this character, appeared in The Yazuka, a 1975 America film about the Japanese crime syndicate, as "the man who never smiles." At the end of Black Rain, Matsu cracks a smile. And you will too given the exchange of meanings that transpires between the American individualist and this Japanese team player.