Manhunt (2017)

Manhunt [追捕] (2017)

Starring Zhang Han-Yu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Ha Ji-Won, Stephy Qi Wei, Jun Kunimura, Nanami Sakuraba, Angeles Woo, Yasuaki Kurata, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Tao Okamoto, Naoto Takenaka

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: A new John Woo action movie… I love these! But I have very little expectation to love this one, honestly.


John Woo has made over 30 films in various genres, but he is best known for his heroic bloodshed films set in the dangerous world of cops and criminals. His last film to fit the category is 1997’s Face/Off, so calling Manhunt a highly anticipated film would still undersell the considerable excitement of action fans worldwide. There is virtually no film that can stand up to 20 years of pent-up desires, though, and Manhunt is no different. It is not the next Hard Boiled, and it will never achieve such widespread classic status as The Killer or A Better Tomorrow. Regardless of this, Manhunt is a very enjoyable film in its own right, and a nice return for John Woo to the style that made him an international sensation. The focus on the overall style is particularly key, as the film itself hardly resembles Woo’s masterworks in any literal sense.

Du Qiu (Zhang Han-Yu) is a Chinese lawyer working in Japan for Tenjin Pharmaceuticals, a powerful corporation developing cutting-edge drugs. After a company party, Du Qiu is found in his apartment with the corpse of a woman beside him. Charged with murder, Du Qiu escapes the arresting cops and runs for his life. Japanese policeman Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama) suspects a set-up, and with his recruit sidekick Rika (Nanami Sakuraba) he begins investigating beyond what the initial facts indicate. These threads converge and overlap throughout the film in clever ways, developing the bond between Du Qiu and Yamura, just as you would expect in a heroic bloodshed film from John Woo. The relationship feels undercooked compared to the perfectly executed ones in The Killer or Hard Boiled, though.

Continue reading Manhunt (2017) →

Quick Takes: Ichi the Killer, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, John Wick

ichiIchi the Killer [殺し屋1] (1994)
threehalfstar

Starring Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Paulyn Sun, Susumu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Toru Tezuka, Yoshiki Arizono, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Satoshi Niizuma, Suzuki Matsuo, Jun Kunimura
Directed by Takashi Miike

Ichi the Killer is the third feature I’ve seen from Takashi Miike, and damn he’s good. A film like this that’s so incredibly bloody and violent, but yet the main takeaway is the need for a deep intellectual discussion… that’s hard to pull off. It ultimately felt like Miike had crafted a film that wonders about the people who watch these kinds of films (or violent, “negative” media in general) with an armchair bloodlust. This all seemed to hinge on one small moment during the finale when a character in extreme peril looks directly into the camera with intense fear, while that same camera is presenting a first-person view from the character instilling this fear in the other. In any case, this is definitely not a film for the squeamish, as it’s one hell of an extreme, sadistic bloodbath. Audition may have gotten the “this movie is so crazy and shocking” press, but Ichi the Killer is a million times worse than Audition. The nipple scene is sheer torture! I literally pushed my chair back as far as it would go, cringed and repeated “Goddamn!” in a whisper for the next 30 seconds or so. Good stuff.

TheLegendIsBornIpMan+2010-3-bThe Legend Is Born: Ip Man [葉問前傳] (2010)
AKA Ip Man Zero
threestar

Starring Dennis To, Crystal Huang Yi, Xu Jiao, Hins Cheung King-Hin, Fan Siu-Wong, Yuen Biao, Lam Suet, Yip Chun, Bernice Liu Bik-Yi, Sire Ma Choi, Rose Chan Ka-Wun, Sammo Hung
Directed by Herman Yau

I initially avoided The Legend Is Born: Ip Man out of respect for the original Ip Man films. I didn’t want to see any watered-down knock-offs. But then it occurred to me that it was no different than all the Brucesploitation films that are a lot of fun, so I plunged in head-first, hoping it wouldn’t be as trashy as a you might expect a knock-off to be. And, you know, it actually felt more respectful of Ip Man’s legacy than Ip Man 2 was! The Legend Is Born even features Ip Man’s son, Ip Chun, in a wonderful role as an elder student of Wing Chun that has developed a more refined and varied approach to the fighting style that revolutionizes Ip Man’s way of thinking. This reminded me greatly of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do style, and if this section of the film was truthful to Ip Man’s life, then I imagine it was this spirit of openness to other styles and ways of thinking that he would later pass on to Bruce. I loved the focus on Wing Chun in The Legend Is Born, and it’s definitely one for Hong Kong fans to watch. In some ways it actually felt like an older-style kung fu film that is generally no longer made, and you know that kind of thing is a quick way to my heart. And it has Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung in supporting roles!

johnwickJohn Wick (2014)
AKA Sin Control, John Wick: Sin Control

twostar

Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Toby Leonard Moore, Daniel Bernhardt, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Clarke Peters
Directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

I just didn’t connect with John Wick at all. I blame the fan hype that sold it as some kind of John Woo-style gun movie. I didn’t see that in it AT ALL. The way the violence was handled felt really gross. It’s the same problem I have with a lot of modern horror films: everything looks too damn real or graphic for me to just have fun with it. I am forced to reckon with the reality of the situation, which in this case is John Wick revenge-killing a whole shitload of dudes. All the violence is really flippant and backed by “cool” music, too, so everything about the violence felt glorified and dirty to me. I can’t have fun with that. Does this even make sense to anyone but me? It’s hard to explain. Whatever. I didn’t like it. ’nuff said.

Quick Takes: The Stand, The Wind Rises, Gold Told Me To

the-stand-movie-poster-1994-1020189668The Stand (1994)
twohalfstar

Starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Corin Nemec, Adam Storke, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Bill Fagerbakke, Peter Van Norden, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, Bridgit Ryan, Kellie Overbey
Directed by Mick Garris

Having recently re-read the book, I had to also revisit this. It’s a fair adaptation, about as good as you could hope for from a network TV mini-series of the ’90s. Of course, everything is truncated quite a bit (even at 6 hours long), but its the characters that suffer the most. So much depth is lost in this version, especially with Fran, but it’s still worthwhile for fans of the book looking for a “quick” refresher. I was also disappointed that they ended without including the final scene of the book. Yes, it probably would’ve been more comical than anything else in this version, but that basic idea that “Ka is a wheel,” that this is a struggle that has been and will always continue to go on for all time, is one that feels so integral to King’s work. Oh well… I can hope for this ending in the new version. The CG is also quite dated, but the makeup FX work by Steve Johnson still shines brightly.

TheWindRisesPosterThe Wind Rises [風立ちぬ] (2013)
fourstar

Starring Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura, Jun Kunimura, Mirai Shida, Shinobu Otake, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

The Wind Rises is beautiful in every way. It sits apart from the rest of Miyazaki’s work as his most grounded film, which is funny as it’s entirely about flight. What really impressed me was how Miyazaki weaves together the professional and personal lives of real-life aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi. I later found out the personal part of the story was pure fiction, adapted in part from Tatsuo Hori’s 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen, but knowing this doesn’t diminish the film’s power in any way. I was moved to tears by the relationship between Jiro and Nahoko, as I found it oddly similar to my situation as I care for my spouse as she is debilitated further and further by multiple sclerosis. It may not hit you the same way, but The Wind Rises made me appreciate each day just a little more. An absolutely wonderful film for Miyazaki to go out on.

god-told-me-to-movie-1088207586Gold Told Me To (1976)
AKA Demon

threehalfstar

Starring Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Sylvia Sidney, Sam Levene, Robert Drivas, Mike Kellin, Richard Lynch, Sammy Williams
Directed by Larry Cohen

With a title like God Told Me To, I expected the film to be about a religious nutcase going crazy in some kind of slasher-esque film. God Told Me To is vaguely like that in the first few minutes, but very quickly you realize that there’s a lot more going on here than some simple slasher horror film. In hopes that someone reading this will watch the film, I’m going to remain vague, but know that God Told Me To is a highly ambitious B-Movie that tackles huge issues and largely succeeds. It’s the kind of movie that will require some suspension of disbelief, due to the subject matter and the limited FX work, but those willing to appreciate its power will find much to like. Personally, I think the FX work is perfect and everything the film needed, but I can easily see people nowadays laughing at it “because it’s old.” Their loss. The cinematography is also excellent and vibrant throughout, thanks in part to the brand new Blu-ray from Blue Underground. In any case, if you dig B-Movies, Larry Cohen is one to explore, and God Told Me To is one of the best films I’ve seen from him.

Audition (1999)

Audition [オーディション] (1999)

Starring Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Ren Ohsugi

Directed by Takashi Miike

Expectations: High.


Wow. Y’know for a movie with this much hype built up around it, and the fact that I kinda knew the ending in a vague way, I did not expect to be as blown away as I was by Audition. Truly one of the greatest modern horror films, Audition slowly unfolds its tale and pulls you into its story with likable, compelling characters. You could say that the first half is too slow, but that would be missing the point. The slowness is part of the film’s character and absolutely why the third act hits as hard as it does.

The film opens with Aoyama at the bedside of his dying wife. His son arrives with a get well present for his mother, but he’s too late. Seven years later and Aoyama is lonely and still overcome with grief, so his son suggests that he get out and date again. He does, kinda, but to tell anymore would betray the greatness of the film. Seriously, just watch it. It’s definitely the type of movie where knowing much at all will detract from the experience, but know that if you like non-standard horror, you’ll probably enjoy this. So come back after you’ve seen the movie, as I’m not actively trying to spoil anything, but even my vague descriptions of things will be too much.

Continue reading Audition (1999) →




Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 73 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages