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Review: Manhunt (2017)


Title: Manhunt (2017)

Genre: Action, Thriller

Director: John Woo

Stars: Masaharu Fukuyama and Zhang Hanyu

Grade: C-

In a Nutshell:

Du Qiu (Zhang Hanyu) is a brilliant Chinese lawyer who works for the Japanese company Tenjin Pharmaceuticals . After attending a party thrown by his employers in Osaka, Du Qiu wakes up the next morning with a dead woman in his hotel room. Baffled, Du Qiu calls the police for help, but they doubt his innocence and arrest him. While being led away outside, Du Qiu escapes from the police and hides in a subway station.

Two other Japanese cops, Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his rookie partner Rika (Nanami Sakuraba), head to the station and find Du Qiu disguised as a construction worker. When Du Qiu takes Rika hostage with a nail gun (seriously), Yamura offers to switch places with her. Du Qiu takes Yamura and steals a car, but then he crashes into a cage of doves, and ends up escaping without Yamura.

Du Qiu’s fight to clear his name isn’t an easy one; there are jet ski fights, a pair of assassin sisters, and a weird conspiracy involving drugs. It’s a very crazy game of cat and mouse, full of jazz, gun-fu, and slow-motion.

The Critique:

Before he went off to Hollywood in 1993, John Woo directed a string of classic action movies in Hong Kong, including A Better Tomorrow (1986) and The Killer (1989). I fell in love with these movies in high school, and ever since then, I’ve been wishing for Woo to ditch big-budget epics and get back to his roots. Though Manhunt is the remake of a ‘70s Japanese movie with the same name, Woo’s adaptation is a definite throwback to his glory days.

The plot here, as you’ve probably gathered already, is outlandish and silly. There are bullet-ridden bodies everywhere, and characters deliver cheesy lines like “There’s only one end for a fugitive: A dead one” without an iota of shame. At one point, gunmen on motorcycles crash through the windows of a house in the countryside, dropping an endless supply of bullets while horses outside run wild.

The action sequences in Manhunt are as fun as they are dumb. The story can be fun too, but there are other times it’s just confusing and meandering. The characters are likable enough, but their relationships never come across as strong as the bonds on display in Woo’s “heroic bloodshed” classics. At times, Manhunt is so hollow and tongue-in-cheek, in fact, that it feels like more of a parody than a legitimate successor to Hard Boiled (1992). Perhaps my nostalgia makes me too biased, but while I certainly enjoyed Manhunt, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix:

Manhunt was released in Chinese theaters last November, but it premiered in the U.S. as a Netflix original film in May 2018. Though it’s a fun way to pass two hours, especially for Woo fans, I wouldn’t call it a must-watch.

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