×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Manhunt’

A breezy, silly, borderline self-parodic action thriller full of guns, doves and slow-mo from Hong Kong genre master John Woo.

Director:
John Woo
With:
Zhang Hanyu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Qi Wei, Ha Jiwon, Jun Kunimura.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4537986/

It would be hard not to have a good time, at least some of the time, during “Manhunt,” veteran Hong Kong director John Woo’s return to high-concept, low-brow action, after his foray into period drama with the “Red Cliff” and “The Crossing” movies. But whether we’re laughing with the film or laughing at the film is a slightly less clear-cut question: “Manhunt” is a proudly daft action thriller, that shoots its double guns through the buddy movie and the wrongly-accused-man-on-the-run genre, and even ends up slow-mo sliding into sci-fi later.

But above all of that, it’s a kind of a John Woo Pinterest board, a kitschily self-referential mash-up of the Woo-hoopla he perfected during his decade-long reign of balletic, batshit mayhem between 1986’s “A Better Tomorrow” and 1997’s “Face/Off.” As awesome as that sounds, and sometimes is, “Manhunt” is sadly more pastiche than homage, especially during those moments between action setpieces where stick-figure characters say things like, “It’s like in those old classic films!” “You like old classic films?” “I love old classic films!” “Wait, I have a DVD of an old classic film in my car, let me get it for you.”

That exchange is what passes for sexy chit-chat as suave, successful Chinese lawyer Du Qiu (a convincing Zhang Hanyu, familiar from last year’s “Operation Mekong” as well as folly “The Great Wall”) flirts with the comely barmaid in a small traditional bar in Japan. Thankfully, no sooner has he gone to fetch that old, classic film then the barmaid, actually a highly trained assassin-orphan called Rain (Ha Jiwon), flings back the sleeves of her kimono to reveal a gun in either hand, and, tag-teaming with her similarly disguised sister Dawn (Angeles Woo, John’s daughter), proceeds to wipe out a back room full of drunken gangster-businessmen types. The women’s silks billow prettily in slow-motion, and their back-to-back team work has all the wow of classic Woo.

Rain and Dawn are actually the muscle for their ruthless father figure Sakai (Jun Kunimura), the head of the shady pharmaceutical corporation for which Du Qiu has completed some lucrative, if maybe not morally sound, legal work. But the morning after a company celebration, at which he’d met the mysterious Mayumi (Qi Wei), Du Qiu wakes up next to a woman’s dead body, is framed for murder and pursued by dogged cop-with-a-past Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama, faring less well here than in his other Venice title, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Third Murder”).

Gradually, Yamura grudgingly becomes Du Qiu’s ally (there’s a nice bit of business where they have to fight off a gang of goons while handcuffed together) and together with Mayumi they try to bring the pharma company down, along with its experimental drug that causes a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like transformation in its victims. The plotlines, lifted from Junya Sato’s 1976 film of the same name, which was itself based on a novel by Juko Nishimura, are more plentiful than plausible.

But plot isn’t really the point. Really it’s a throwback nostalgia trip to Woo’s glory days, from the golden-hued ’90s grade of the pictures to the generic, sax-accented action score, to the water-scooter chase to Yamamura’s line toasting “a better tomorrow” to the destruction of a small wooden shed that inevitably turns out to contain an apparently inexhaustible flight of fluttering white doves.

Accusations of point-missing will no doubt fly thick and fast as doves from a newly demolished dovecote, from those who come to Woo solely for the action bona fides. But for those of us for whom the director’s best work, like the brilliant “Hard Boiled” or the transcendently ludicrous “Face/Off,” is marked out not just by superior gun-fu but by the disarming sincerity with which he always sold the silliness, “Manhunt” is a disappointment. The writing is desultory, the characters undeveloped and stakes are low, if you discount the vague anxiety that builds up whenever heartthrob Fukuyama has to deliver English dialogue: Though the ultimate triumph of good guys over bad guys is assured from the outset, sometimes his line readings, of zingers such as “There’s only one end for a fugitive — a dead end,” are so mangled that there’s moment-to-moment doubt as to whether he’ll make it to the end of the sentence.

However much fun the film’s high points may afford, there is also something faintly depressing about seeing a once-inventive filmmaker plunder his own legacy for easy props. One could say there’s no better man to make a John Woo parody than John Woo, but when he was responsible for a clutch of actions films that genuinely redefined the genre, to a thrillingly non-parodic level, with a dexterity that still exists in the sculpted professionalism of his action scenes, “Manhunt” feels underwhelming and undercooked: distinctly soft-boiled.

Film Review: 'Manhunt'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Out of Competition), Sept. 7th , 2017. (Also in Toronto Film Festival). Running time: 106 MIN. (Original title: "Zhuibu")

Production: (Hong Kong-China) A Media Asia Films presentation of a Media Asia Films, Murmur Culture Communications production. (International sales: Media Asia Films, Hong Kong.) Producers: Gordon Chan, John Woo, Zhang Hanyu Jiwon, Jun Kunimura, Chan Hing Kai. Executive producers: Peter Lam, La Peikang
.

Crew: Director: John Woo. Screenplay: Nip Wan Fung, Gordon Chan, James Yuen,
 Itaru Era, Ku Zoi Lam, Maria Wong, Sophia Yeh, based on the novel by Juko Nishimura. 
Camera (color): Takuro Ishizaka. Editors: Wong Hoi, Lee Ka Wah. Music: Taro Iwashiro.

With: Zhang Hanyu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Qi Wei, Ha Jiwon, Jun Kunimura.

More Film

  • Cate Blanchett's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette'

    Cate Blanchett's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' Moved Back to August

    Annapurna Pictures has moved its Richard Linklater literary adaptation “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” starring Cate Blanchett back five months from March 22 to an Aug. 9 release. A rep for Annapurna explained that August has served well as a launching pad for release of female-skewing films such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” and [...]

  • Kumail Nanjiani Issa Rae

    Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae to Star in 'Lovebirds' Romantic Comedy

    “The Big Sick” star Kumail Nanjiani and “Insecure” star Issa Rae will topline Paramount’s romantic comedy “The Lovebirds.” The project will reunite Nanjiani with “The Big Sick” helmer Michael Showalter, who’s on board to direct from a script by Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero. The project goes into production at the end of [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Film Review: 'Pledge' TV Review: [...]

  • 'The Pledge' Review

    Film Review: 'Pledge'

    “Privilege comes with sacrifice” says one character to another in “Pledge” — exactly the kind of noble sentiment authority figures always voice to hush the protests of those about to be sacrificed. This third feature for director Daniel Robbins is no delicate flower of cinematic art, but a lean and mean shocker that tells its [...]

  • John Lithgow

    John Lithgow-Blythe Danner's 'Tomorrow Man' Bought Ahead of Sundance Premiere

    In one of the first deals for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, Bleecker Street has acquired North American rights to the John Lithgow-Blythe Danner romance “The Tomorrow Man.” The movie will hold its world premiere at the fest, which opens on Jan. 24 in Park City, Utah. The distributor is planning a May 17 release. [...]

  • Dragon Ball Super Broly

    'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' Scores Big First Day With $7 Million

    Funimation Films’ Japanese anime movie “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” has opened impressively with a dominant first-day total of $7 million at 1,260 North American locations on Wednesday. The English-language version of “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” which screened at 180 Imax and Cinemark XD premium large format screens, generated by far the best per-screen average among [...]

  • Shoplifters Cannes

    Box Office: 'Shoplifters' Hits $2 Million to Become One of 2018's Highest-Grossing Foreign Films

    Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” has become an unexpected box office success. The Japanese drama about a petty thief who adopts a young girl has earned critical raves and picked up the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. That translated into commercial success for Magnolia, the indie distributor that’s been overseeing the film’s rollout. “Shoplifters” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content