Manhunt (Review)


aka 追捕
Script by Lip Wang-Fung, Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, and James Yuen Sai-Sang
Based on the book Kimiyo Funno no Kawa wo Watari by Juko Nishimura
Directed by John Woo

John Woo returns to the world of action cinema to show us that he still….uh…he still can make a movie? With some action scenes? That’s about it, because Manhunt is decisively not in the tradition of classic John Woo action and is more in the tradition of ridiculous scenes wrapped around an overly complicated plot. So basically it’s like a benchwarmer Hong Kong action flick. It isn’t terrible, but it’s like Gordon Ramsey making you waffles and they taste worse than McDonalds. Part of the problem might be that this is a big coproduction between China and NetFlix, packed with a great cast who get parts that are either wasted or follow trajectories that we already know their outcome. Tragically, some of theme don’t even get to ham it up before they buy the farm!

Lawyer Du Qiu (Zhang Han-Yu) , the best lawyer in all of Japan, is leaving his cushy job at a pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate for another position. But the pharmaceutical company is up to no good, and before Du Qiu can move to Bel Air, he’s framed for murder and is on the run! Don’t worry, there is also a super duper detective named Satoshi Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama ), who is hot on Du Qiu’s trail despite figuring out that Du Qiu is innocent and there is a bigger story at play. Hey, he’s still got to do his job! Du Qui and Yamura’s disagreement on whether Du should be sitting in a cell while they sort out what is what causes the crux of a lot of action sequences, as Du Qui manages to escape large police pursuits again and again. Toss in a mysterious woman (Stephy Qi Wei as Mayumi) whose almost husband used to work for the villainous megacorp (and was later killed on their wedding day after losing a big case thanks do Du when he tried to stop what was going on) and Ha Jiwon and John Woo’s daughter Angeles Woo as two female assassins who randomly show up to shoot everyone (when Ha Jiwon and Du aren’t talking about old movies), and you got a film that can’t find its focus. This is before it suddenly goes all Marvel. But more on that is spoiling things…
Continue reading

Reign of Assassins (Review)

Reign of Assassins

aka Jianyu

Directed by Su Chao-Pin and John Woo

Reign of Assassins left me angry, not because it is a bad film, but because it could have been an outstanding film. Reign of Assassins had the potential to be an awesome and unforgettable film experience. Instead, we have just a good film, with parts I remember more because of how they could have been and not what they are. Yes, there are some great sequences in Reign of Assassins (RoA for those of us who are cool), mostly the action sequences (which is where it looks like John Woo just completely took over), but there are many other parts that look great in screencaps and as stills.

Interesting characters are introduced, only to be barely in the film or have suspect motivations, while other characters get far far too much screen time. Why we had like 30 minutes of the land lady vs. five minutes of the Magician I will never know. The villain’s big secret reveal was a let down, as was his secret identity. Why does the undisputed master of the biggest circle of thieves need a secret identity? And it isn’t even a secret identity that he uses to get information no one else can get, he’s just… Gah!

One is tempted to compare this to John Woo’s Face/Off, what with all the face-switching, but he didn’t write the film and seemed to be just hanging around the set all day telling Su Chao-Pin what to do. I guess he just sort of took over and Su Chao-Pin was so impressed that John Woo is hanging around he just let him. John Woo’s daughter Angeles Woo even shows up near the beginning of the film! So we can say that Su Chao-Pin got Wooed. Big time.

Just imagine one day you are directing a film, and then Steven Spielberg walks in and says he loves the script and wants to hang out on set. Of course you’re stoked, you are in the presence of a master and probably learn a lot. Then the next day, Steven comes back. And that’s cool. And he has tips and helps out your crew. Then he comes back again the next day. And the next. Soon your crew starts deferring to him and he virtually takes over directing most of the major scenes. The press gets wind, and suddenly your film is now “Steven Spielberg’s…” and his daughter is suddenly cast in it. Soon, no one even remembers who you are. Your star asks you to go get coffee. Spielberg is sent on a ten city tour to promote the film, while you get yelled at for forgetting the hazelnut syrup in the latte. Bitter and dejected, you then log onto TarsTarkas.NET, only to find even he is making fun of you. Your life is ruined, and there is nothing left to do but jump off the Empire State Building. But don’t despair, I think they got suicide nets now. Try the Golden Gate Bridge, it is still net free at the moment.

Now, I’m not saying that’s what happened on this film, I’m just saying they need to get the barriers on the bridge built faster.

So let’s start the Roll Call for John Woo’s Reign of Assassins!

Zeng Jing aka Drizzle (Michelle Yeoh) – Change your face, change your life. Also steal half of a dead body and realize you can’t really leave the underworld unless it is on a trail of dead bodies. Michelle Yeoh is famous enough I shouldn’t have to explain who she is.
Jiang Ah-Sheng (Jung Woo-Sung) – Zeng Jing’s husband with a secret of his own. He’s a delivery guy who enjoys hiding from the rain and being rejected by Zeng Jing. Until she finally marries him because we’ve wasted enough time in the village and the plot demands we continue on. Jung Woo-Sung was in Musaand The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
Wheel King (Wang Xue-Qi) – Leader of the Dark Stone, the super thieves gang that rules the Chinese underworld. He has a secret identity and a secret. He also has a goofy nickname. Just because he did awesome on Wheel of Fortune and even scored a date with Vanna White, he’ll never live it down….
Turquoise Leaf (Barbie Hsu Hsi-Yuan) – Barbie Hsu plays a good crazy woman, you almost forget she can play likable characters (cough cough Adventure of the King), or characters that are the living embodiment of a gloomy rainy day (cough cough Future X-Cops).
The Magician (Leon Dai Lap-Yan) – The coolest character who is completely ignored and quickly eliminated. That’s what you get for not being a boring guy who likes noodles!
Lei Bin (Shawn Yu Man-Lok ) – The needles guy likes noodles. This guy is pretty boring, and throwing needles is something that you usually see women doing in martial arts films. Another Dark Stone assassins. Did you know Dark Stone members are called “Dark Stoners”? Now you do! Shawn Yu has been in the Infernal Affairs trilogy and tons of other films I have seen but not written reviews of.
Drizzle (Kelly Lin Hsi-Lei) – Here is Drizzle pre-face surgery, because she was played by someone famous so we’re namedropping her. Largely because Kelly Lin was in Asian Charlie’s Angels.

Continue reading

Michelle Yeoh returning to martial arts genre with Jianyu Jianghu

[adrotate banner=”1″]Michelle Yeoh is stepping back into the martial world and playing an assassin in the upcoming film Jianyu Jianghu, (translated: Rain Of Swords In The Martial Arts World.) John Woo is co-directing along with Su Chao-pin (Silk.) Filming is expected to begin next week, so hopefully we’ll have something cool to report soon.