I can’t remember the first John Woo film I ever saw, was it one of his early English language Hollywood films like Hard Target or one of his many Chinese films, usually starring Chow Yun-Fat?
I might have started to get into his later movies after someone recommended I check out A Better Tomorrow, a melodramatic action film that really sets the stage for what you should expect in any John Woo film. I think maybe they recommended the sequel, but I couldn’t watch the second one without seeing the first. The thing was though, Chow Yun-Fat if I remember correctly was the bad guy, not to mention he died in the first, so I had no idea how he’d also be starring in the sequel. Answer? Twin brother. And this time he was the good guy, as it should be.
Of course we can’t talk about John Woo without mentioning how great The Killer is. It might be his greatest film, not to mention maybe the greatest action film ever created.
If I had to rank Woo’s older films, I’d put The Killer at the top, Hard Boiled a close second. Hard Boiled features one of the most badass long take scenes you’ll ever see.
If you loved action movies, John Woo was a god. Even his English language films are great action shlock. I mean, Face/Off… do I need to say more?
Hell, even his videogame Stranglehold is a ton of fun. Which I believe was a sequel to Hard Boiled.
Somewhere along the way he kind of just vanished from my purview. The last film I remember him making was his film epic Red Cliff. But after that not even a whisper of him.
That is until now, when Netflix announced they will be premiering his new film Manhunt as an option to stream. Of course when I heard this I was unexpectedly surprised and excited. A new John Woo film? After all these years? It’s going to suck, isn’t it?
Yeah, it kind of sucks. But it isn’t without some good. The action being the biggest highlight here. The plot on the other hand… garbage. Messy laughably nonsensical garbage.
It honestly reminded me of a really bad telenovela. In my opinion however, all telenovelas are bad, so that isn’t saying much.
Are you ready to jump in this with me? Let’s get started and try to keep up, because things are about to get fucking stupid.
Manhunt takes place in Osaka Japan, a first maybe for a John Woo film. Though don’t quote me on that. I may have seen all his action films, but that doesn’t mean I remember them all.
Anyway, we open on a very strange scene of our main character Du Qiu, a Chinese lawyer hired by a pharmaceutical company in Japan. He stops by an old bar and has a conversation about old movies with one of the hostesses.
Unbeknownst to him, the actual waitresses have been replaced with hitmen or in this case hit ladies… hit women? I don’t know, lady killers. One sexy pretty one named Rain and the pudgy one named Dawn. It was always kind of hilarious to me whenever they show the pudgy one jumping over cars, sliding down tables… she garnered the nickname the fat assassin by me.
What is their relevance to the plot you might be asking? No idea. They’re just kind of tossed into the plot and could easily be removed. They are at this bar to kill a bunch of Yakuza, but I have no clue why they are sent to kill them, unless I missed something.
You later find out that they are the personal hit ladies to the head of that same pharmaceutical company Du Qiu works for. It almost feels like maybe they were added in to possibly give Du Qiu a love interest. Him and Rain have like a two minute conversation where they quote movie lines to each other so naturally she’s madly in love with him now.
Du Qiu shows up at the said pharma company, that is of course secretly evil, being led by actor Jun Kunimura, the only recognizable face in this film. I have no clue who the two leads are. Which makes me wonder where the hell Chow Yun-Fat is.
The company is celebrating Jun Kunimura’s son becoming the head of a new department of the company. Jun Kunimura desperately wants Du Qiu to stay here in Osaka and help his son with the transition.
But he refuses which means the dirty old man has to play a few of his tricks. Like have a naked lady show up at his place, looking to sleep with him.
But instead of going home with her, he takes a ride with another woman, Mayumi.
Once Du Qiu arrives home, in a drunken state he passes out only to find the woman that tried to seduce him stabbed to death in his bed beside him. With no clue as to what is going on, he immediately calls the police, asking for a lawyer when they arrive.
But as they are taking him into custody, a corrupt cop named Mamoru stages Du Qiu’s escape, trying to kill him in the process.
Now Du Qiu is on the run.
Hardboiled detective Yamura is on the case, dogging him throughout the film.
Now all of this seems pretty straight forward. That is until they introduce the superhumans the pharma company has been secretly making. All of a sudden the film stops becoming The Fugitive and starts becoming Universal Soldier. Or more accurately, Universal Soldier 2: The Return.
The pharma company has been producing a new drug that, when taken and I guess through intense pain, the user gains superhuman strength but loses their mind in the process. They’ve been collecting homeless people off the street or from this shanty town our main character Du Qiu stumbles upon when on the run from the cops. Another weird detour this film takes.
First off, this film has way too many characters. Too many characters and way too many side plots. Aside from the fugitive storyline, we also have the lady assassins and now this superhuman drug being used on the homeless, but to add to that, there’s also the story of Mayumi, you remember me mentioning her, right? She was the lady that drove Du Qiu home the night of the murder. Anyway, she was the bride of the head scientist who helped create this super drug. He was murdered by the company to… I guess keep him quiet. But they killed him before they could get the rest of his perfected superhuman formula.
Christ, I haven’t even gotten into the editing choices here. We all John Woo’s penchant for elaborate, over the top action sequences and his love of the slow motion dove scene, which this film featured plenty of. But he also made the choice to have sudden slide show sequences during dialogue scenes. Like they were jump cuts but jump cuts told in still picture form. It has been way too long since I’ve seen a John Woo film to remember if that too is something he is known for doing. It was so jarring when it happened, I thought maybe my internet messed up and Netflix needed to buffer.
I forget the reason why, but Du Qiu sneaks on to one of the trucks that ships in the homeless… okay, so these trucks show up offering homeless people a job, yet it’s a job no one ever seems to come back from. And it isn’t like they don’t know you never come back, it was clearly stated by them htat no one ever returns once you leave. Yet! They are constantly lining up to join.
Du Qui and the leader of shanty town join up, only to be knocked out by gas. When they wake up, they are locked up in a group cell, wearing orange jumpers. Leader of shanty town is first on the list to get experimented on, only to return as a kungfu master with rage issues.
He goes on a karate killing spree, all secretly being witness by the head of the pharma company. He notices Du Qiu mixed in the group and singles him out to be experimented on next.
The testing is cut short once detective Yamura shows up looking for his perp. Also lady assassin Rain is there. She’s still upset that her friend and kill partner (the fat assassin) was killed pursuing Du Qiu.
The head of the company has been getting the two assassins hooked on their superhuman drug, so they need to keep doing jobs if they want to get their fix.
Oh, I have been so occupied by the whole superhuman aspect of the film, I completely forgot about the whole murder mystery that set this whole thing off in motion.
So the pharma company’s head sent that woman over to Du Qiu’s place to try and seduce him, the woman just happened to be his son’s (the head of the pharma company) girlfriend. In a jealous rage, he kills her and puts the blame on Du Qiu, all with the help of that dirty cop Mamoru.
Somewhere along the way detective Yamura figured all of this out.
Somehow Du Qiu is able to resist the drug and teams up with the detective to take everyone out.
Mayumi was being held captive by the lady assassin because they thought maybe she might know what the formula for the super drug is. Lady assassin Rain is tired of being a puppet so she turns on the head of the pharma company, both dying in the process.
Du Qiu is now a free man, leaving on a train back to China. Can you take a train to China? Okay, I don’t really know where he is taking the train to. Japan is an island, so I have no idea where he is going.
And that’s John Woo’s Manhunt. It gets a SKIP IT rating from me. It might be worth a rent if you are a giant Woo fan. But for everyone else… The action sequences are great, though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the CGI bullet trails. Using them for the machineguns and assault rifles I get, but to use them for handguns as well annoyed the hell out of me, as I don’t think you’d get that effect.
If the movie stuck to just the manhunt aspect of the story, a framed man trying to clear his name, add that with a few of the cooler action sequences, this might have been pretty good. But the addition of the assassins, the deviation to the plot with the pointless homeless people and not to mention the whole thing about super drugs and the widow of the murdered man who made it… it’s too much and too silly and it’s all taken way too seriously.
Hopefully John Woo’s remake of The Killer will be better, but it’s a remake so probably not.
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