Starring Jackie Chan, Joey Wong Cho-Yin, Richard Norton, Gotoh Kumiko, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Carol Wan Chui-Pan, Tan Lap-Man, Leon Lai, Ken Lo, Gary Daniels, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung, Mike Abbott, Louis Roth, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Hagiwara Kenzo
Directed by Wong Jing
City Hunter is another Jackie Chan film that I wasn’t completely in love with during my teenage obsession. I was desperate to recreate that first-time feeling of experiencing Rumble in the Bronx, so something like City Hunter, with its wildly comedic, cartoon tone, wasn’t going to fit the bill. These days my passion for Jackie remains constant, but my expectations and restrictions of what I want to see from him have relaxed and opened up considerably. Now I’m happy to follow Jackie and whatever director he’s working with into any creative experience they can cook up.
In these terms, City Hunter is an impressive work of art. It manages to capture the over-the-top look and the feel of a cartoon/anime in live action, and it keeps this tone and aesthetic constant throughout every aspect of the production. From exaggerated acting and facial expressions, to the breakneck, logic-smashing pace, to the action choreography that is comedic and over-the-top before anything else, City Hunter is stylistically rich, and about as perfect a comic book adaptation as you could ask for. I have half a mind to give it four stars — I was that bowled over by it — but I’ll have to watch it again to see if it holds up and reinforces this strong a reaction.
Wong Jing is known for crafting films with this kind of reckless insanity, and for some reason I feel like City Hunter is kind of a tame film for him. I’ve seen less than 10 of his 100 (and counting) films, and all the ones I’ve seen were in my teens and I remember nothing. If my reaction to City Hunter is any indication than I should be in for a treat when I eventually revisit them. He got his directing start in the early ’80s with the Shaw Brothers studio, and he has been one of the rock solid pillars of Hong Kong cinema ever since. Judging on his talent for wrangling the myriad plotlines of City Hunter and infusing nearly every moment with frenetic energy and sharp comedic timing, it is with good reason! I really must dig into his massive filmography one of these days.
Gweilos Gary Daniels and Richard Norton are just as impressive as Jackie in City Hunter, giving him a pair of foes worthy of his best efforts. Norton has always been one of my favorites because of his fight with Sammo Hung in Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, and his work in City Hunter is fantastic. I’m not nearly as familiar with Gary Daniels, so he stood out the most to me. The initial fight between Jackie and Daniels is so fierce, with so many quick, precise movements by both men packed into each shot. I got the sense that if the film’s tone was serious, they could have created something to rival Jackie’s pair of screen fights with Benny the Jet. Daniels is really that good; it’s a shame he never became a huge star. If nothing else, he should’ve done another film with Jackie! Wait… there’s still time, guys! Do it!
I really loved City Hunter, and I found it an interesting companion to Jackie’s previous film, Crime Story. The films feature opposite extremes, and as such are far more similar than they would appear on the surface. They both take Jackie into new territory and prove that he is more than capable in both capacities. It would be easy to write off City Hunter as dumb and without merit, but that would be neglecting the amount of talent and skill necessary to pull off something this stupidly sophisticated. If you like Chinese comedy (which is definitely a unique, acquired taste), or if you’re open-minded to trying such things, City Hunter is quite an entertaining film.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is the one, the only: Drunken Master II! See ya then!