Crying Freeman Review
Based upon the original comics of the same name Director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) brought us one of the better comic book adaptations of the nineties with Crying Freeman. Mark Dacascos (Drive) is the Freeman, an unwilling executioner for an ancient clan who kills on command with results so conclusive that he has become almost mythical in nature. When a young lady, Emu O'Hara (Julie Condra) witnesses the Freeman carry out an assassination she becomes the next target, but the Freeman (also known as Yo Hinomura) cannot bring himself to execute her as he has fallen in love (as you do). What follows are the new couples attempts to free themselves from the reigns of the Freeman personality (the cult that controls him will not let go so easily) and to also escape from another clan who desperately want to take revenge on the Freeman for the murder of their boss.
When I first discovered this film I was somewhat apprehensive, almost immediately dismissing it as another anime/cartoon/game style movie adaptation it was only the near cult status that this film has attained that drew me back to it. Although I have never actually read the original Manga comic books I have seen the anime adaptation (that is to my knowledge very close to the comics) and can confidently say that Gans effort is a pleasant surprise that is fairly close to the anime, and in many ways far superior. Dacascos was a top choice for the main role, he has the right look to play both sides of his character, an innocent charm as Yo Hinomura, and as the Freeman he is both determined and, when it comes to the action set-pieces he does of course live up to the challenge. Speaking of the action, that is mostly what this film is about, several (merely average) gun toting action sequences are followed by an amazing samurai sword based finale that showcases several moves that would not look out of place in The Matrix!
Strangely it is not the lack of character development or an Oscar worthy script that lets this film down, and while both are certainly rather thin on the ground any viewer will quickly stride past these minor faults as you will soon realise this is a film that is all about having fun. Of course said fun comes down to the many action scenes but it is here that a fine coating of gloss (of the Hong Kong Action kind) has somehow limited the creativity within the initial gun based action scenes. Mostly consisting of pretty shots of Dacascos diving around or running towards his targets (who of course could not hit a brick wall if they tried) while shooting with supreme accuracy it is a complete lack of any sense of danger that drags these initial action scenes down to a degree where on repeated viewing they almost become boring! Fortunately Gans redeems himself within the latter half of the film where we see the Freeman's first job, a tense showdown at a Yakuza funeral and of course the stunning temple based finale, all of which are great viewing experiences that allow Dacascos to shine. Despite any flaws I actually quite enjoyed Crying Freeman, and again on repeated viewings, maybe this is why it has become quite the cult hit as it somehow works to create an intriguing film that closes with some fantastic action set pieces.
Many fans will already be well aware of the excellent 2 disc set currently available in France that features an anamorphic transfer maintaining the films original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, with that in mind it makes you wonder just why Pathe even bothered releasing this disc. Presented at a 4:3 aspect ratio this is not quite the Pan & Scan hack job I had expected but it is still cropped throughout losing a reasonable amount of horizontal information that creates a cramped feel to the proceedings, but perhaps most disappointing is that given the maturity of the DVD format I truly thought we had seen the end of film releases that were not true to their original aspect ratio. To make matters worse the print used is in poor condition and has received absolutely no restoration leaving a multitude of dirt on the screen in the form of black and white specks and a constantly noticeable level of grain. Detail is average at best, backgrounds show signs of stability problems (the occasional flicker was noticeable), and while colours and black levels are reasonable they are by no means great but they do help what is otherwise an atrocious visual presentation of a film that, given its visual flare, deserves far better. It is also worth noting that the scenes in the Japanese language have burnt in English Subtitles.
To coincide with the VHS style transfer Pathe decided to include a VHS style Dolby Pro-Logic track (or Dolby Digital 2.0 on DVD). Technically this film sounds fine, your rear speakers will be put to reasonable use, mostly outputting the films score they will occasionally create some reasonable directional sound effects while your centre speaker will do an admirable job (though not spectacular) of delivering the vocal efforts of the actors. However, this is a film that would sound fantastic with a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track and as we know there is one available (again on the French R2) it only serves to show how much of a lame effort this release is.
Continuing on an ever-downward spiral the extras for this release leave a lot to be desired. Kept to a bare minimum we are offered both the Teaser Trailer and Theatrical Trailer of which both are worth a look, particularly the Teaser which sums up the films action sequences rather nicely. The only other extra to make it onto this disc is a 5-minute featurette that offers little more than scenes from the film cut together with all to brief snippets of interviews with the films Director and the cast.
Despite its flaws Crying Freeman is certainly an enjoyable film with some stunning action set pieces but due to the decidedly poor quality of this Pathe DVD I find it extremely hard to recommend you do anything other than rent this release.
Last updated: 15/06/2018 02:03:34