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Manhunt - Movie Poster
Original Title:

China, Hong Kong 2017

Action, Crime

John Woo

Zhang Hanyu
Masaharu Fukuyama
Qi Wei
Ha Ji-won
Angeles Woo
Jun Kunimura
Nanami Sakuraba
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi
Yasuaki Kurata

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Manhunt - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Du Qiu (Zhang Hanyu) is a lawyer who successfully closed quite a few cases for Tenjin Pharmaceuticals. Now, he wants to go back to China, yet one morning finds himself lying next to a dead woman, who he has met a few times before already. He calls the police, but the lead investigator is in cahoots with the man who wants to frame him for the murder. Du Qiu escapes and Detective Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama) is brought in. Yamura is very determined and he succeeds in finding Du Qiu. However, the suspect manages to escape again. Ultimately, Yamura starts to have doubts about Du Qiu's guilt since everything in the murder case points to him as the perpetrator too perfectly. Meanwhile, Du Qiu meets with Mayumi (Qi Wei), who just prior to the murder wanted to tell him something about the true motives of Tenjin. It turns out that the lawyer once won a case against her husband, leading to him committing suicide. Thus, Du Qiu can't be sure whether he can trust the woman or not. Moreover, there are two female assassins, Rain (Ha Ji-won) and Dawn (Angeles Woo), who are tasked to take him out. Since Rain once met the lawyer during a fateful encounter, she has qualms killing him...

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Manhunt - Film Screenshot 4

Review: I often wonder how some critics outright roast movies, which are aware of their weaknesses and simply want to entertain. And then there are those rare moments in which its inconceivable how critics can wave a picture like "Manhunt" through as a neat genre piece, even doing so with a respectul nod. Sadly, "Manhunt" shows exactly what we have feared for a while already: John Woo's bullet ballet is dead. His attempts to revive it fail miserably here, if they haven't before already. It doesn't help either that the movie is written so bad at times that it seems as if the filmmaker wanted to convey everything with a wink. The dialogue and pointless sequences serving as an excuse for the next action scene are just horrible. It's truely heartbreaking...

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Those who think that a movie like "Manhunt" would have worked a lot better in the 80s or 90s and that the praise of Woo's old classics are merely nostalgic ramblings should just watch "Hard Boiled" or "A Better Tomorrow" and they will instantly fall silent. Granted, those movies weren't immune from melodramatic kitsch, but themes like brotherhood and the chemistry between the characters along with inventive action are what brought the heroic bloodshed genre into being in the first place. Furthermore, the different individuals were all full of shades of grey which made it so fascinating to suffer alongside them. There is nothing like that to be made out in "Manhunt". Instead, the characters are drawn tediously shallow. And if at some point something like an unusual friendship is about to shimmer through it gets destroyed by terrible dialogue.

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The dialogue turns out to be so bad because the international actors often engage in it in English. Doing so the actors apparently can't handle the dialogue and acting at the same time, making their scenes become a hundredfold worse in terms of acting than those scenes that have been shot in their mother tongue. And this even though they apparently have been dubbed by the actors during post-production anyway... Zhang Hanyu isn't really convincing in his role, although he delivers the best performance of the cast. Dante Lam on the other hand easily managed to make him into an action hero in his "Operation Mekong", while Lam could also prove that he was able to transfer his craftsmanship from the 80s into modern times. Standing next to Zhang is Masaharu Fukuyama ("Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends"), but despite handcuffs and a forced partnership there is no chemistry between the two. Ha Ji-won ("As One") embodies a female assassin who slowly feels remorse in a not that convincing manner either. Interestingly enough, rather unknown Angeles Woo delivers the best performance as Dawn and this in a small supporting role...

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When it comes to the characters and background stories, if you want to call them that, it is the same as with the rest of the film. It's a very bad parody of what worked so great in John Woo's works back in the day. Also, the screenplay is supposed to be based on a novel and that's a bad joke, too. You will think so as well, at the latest when finding out that the plot revolves around a new drug which makes humans into supersoldiers. This was already cliché-loaden in C-movies of the 90s. And when the villain injects himself with the drug, as not to be expected otherwise, this is just the last piece in this series of a rolling-your-eyes marathon. Technically, it's not even the expected numerous slow motion sequences which become a nuisance, but the freeze frames, which didn't work back in the day either and certainly won't now, as well as some picture collages which look like Woo wanting to do a photoshooting for a fashion magazine. Yes, "Manhunt" can be quite awkward at times.

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The jazz-focused soundtrack also doesn't fit to what's happening on screen. The story, being an insult to the audience's intelligence, is pushed to the abyss by the fact that sometimes assassins and police turn up at the whereabouts of the fugitive without any justification, just for the sake of introducing the next action scene. The events are so disconnected that you easily could have edited the movie in any other way and nobody would have noticed. But after all the criticism I also want to point out that there are two or three action scenes which show that the actual inventiveness of John Woo's shootouts still works out fantastically. The choreography is in parts outright awesome and so the shootouts are in fact the only entertaining element in the movie. Thus, it's a shame that they are so rarely interspersed. Seeing those scenes it becomes even the more clear what kind of a wreck the rest of the movie truely is. Fortunately, you can always rewatch the Hong Kong gems of the 80s and 90s. "Manhunt" is simply a waste of time.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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