A Chinese pharmaceutical lawyer framed for a vile crime teams up with a sharp-witted Japanese detective to stop a dangerous corporate plot.

Year: 2017
Certificate: 15
Director: John Woo
Starring: Zhang Hanyu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Qi Wei, Ji-won Ha, Jun Kunimura, Angeles Woo, Nanami Sakuraba

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After two decades of Hollywood diversions and Chinese historical epics, legendary action director John Woo is back with a slow-motion, table-sliding, dove-flying, squib-popping macho melodrama (male-odrama?). The thrill of a master’s return is soon tainted as he seems determined to remind the world he made “Mission: Impossible II” as well as “Hard Boiled”.

The plot is a convoluted web of flashbacks, double crossings and corporate subterfuge. Du Qiu, a Chinese pharmaceutical lawyer working in Japan, is due to transfer to the US. However, his move is scuppered when he’s framed for murder. Trapped in Osaka, he is tailed by a jaded detective and a pair of assassins. The dialogue flits, quite clumsily, between Mandarin, Japanese and English, as characters struggle to share their side of the story.

Woo’s nostalgia extends beyond the aforementioned iconic stylistic touches and also dredges up the cheesiest tropes of 90s tech thrillers – freeze frames and dramatic crossfades abound. The bright city cinematography looks both slick and TV cheap. Let’s not forget, though, that so many of that era’s revered action extravaganzas are essentially soap operas with gunfights.

There are a few moments of inspired madness amongst the recycled beats, though, including a memorable Jet Ski jump. The female assassins are fun too and mark a thoughtful juxtaposition to the macho partnerships Woo has fetishized over the years. But they’re never allowed to play any more than second sniper to their gruff counterparts.

All in all, “Manhunt” is a pale imitation – and, at times, self-parody – of Woo’s glorious heyday. Next up for the director is an English language remake of “The Killer” starring Lupita Nyong’o. Let’s hope he updates his formula accordingly

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About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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