I saw this film on crappy pan and scan VHS when I was about 12 and I didn't really understand it and I wasn't really up on Ridley Scott's work. As a result, the impact of the film was somewhat lost on me. I was expecting an action film instead of a character drama with lots of police procedure. But now, older and wiser and with a brand new Blu Ray of the movie, I am finally able to appreciate how clever the film is.
The story unfortunately IS riddled with 80s Cop Movie clichés and goes through quite a lot of familiar motions. But if you see past that you'll appreciate the immense atmosphere and mood that Ridley Scott piles on. Simply put, Michael Douglas is Nick Conklin, a bad cop (pretty much the exact same character in Basic Instinct) who drag races on his superbike to pay alimony and pinches drug money instead of turning it in for evidence. Enjoying lunch with partner Charlie (Andy Garcia) in a steakhouse in New York's meat-packing district, they just happen to witness a Yakuza execution by wanted Japanese criminal Sato (Yusaku Matsuda, who was dying of cancer during filming and didn't tell anyone). After a quick punch-up and shoot-out they find themselves chaperoning Sato back to Osaka. But when they arrive there he manages to escape, leaving them embarrassed with lots of questions to answer.
Nick and Charlie find themselves in a very foreign and intolerant world and recapturing Sato proves to be difficult in many ways. Not the least of which is Japan's alienating culture (from an NYPD point of view) and rigid rules. Nonetheless, Nick is determined to catch Sato and restore his honor.
Like I said, the atmosphere of the film is overwhelming, which is really all the film needs. The clichés and stereotypes don't matter so much when you are involved this much. Hans Zimmer (his first film with Ridley Scott) provides a deeply emotional and very melodic score that'll be rattling around in your head for days. It's a shame it's never had a comprehensive CD release, as it's one of Zimmer's most impressive efforts.
You could call it a pretty 80s movies, but I still do feel that it holds up pretty well today. As one of Ridley Scott's more forgotten works, it's well worth checking out.