City Hunter Review
City Hunter is based on a Japanese Manga (comic) of the same name. The stories found within the original Manga focus on a private detective by the name of Ryu Saeba, this is the part Jackie Chan makes his own in Wong Jing's (best know for the superb Chow Yun-Fat film, God of Gamblers) interpretation of the original Manga. The basic premise of the film consists of Jackie being hired to track down a rich businessman's runaway daughter, this in turn leads Jackie on to a Cruise Liner that is also the target of a terrorist attack. Jackie discovers the terrorist's plot and sees it as his duty to foil their evil plot as well as saving the girl. Before we see any of the storylines development we are treated to a few choice sequences that give us a little insight to the kind of character Ryu Saeba is, and this character is that of a confident womaniser who knows he is good at what he does and loves himself every bit as much as he does the ladies! It has to be said that Jackie Chan has absolutely nailed this part. I have never seen the original Manga but I have seen enough anime to know what to expect (he is always hungry - this is a common theme in comedic anime, and whenever a pretty lady steps onto the scene he is there like a bullet, again very much like anime) and this really is the closest I have seen a film come to capturing that comedic anime style.
Essentially a fast paced action-comedy, this could be the downfall of the film. There is quite a good mixture of Jackie's comedic styling (silent comedy utilising the environment to great effect) and director Wong Jing's more outlandish comedic style but it is this area that may not appeal to some audiences. Wong Jing is well known for having a very childish, but also very sexist sense of humour, case in point are the occasional jokes that involve busty ladies falling over (due to their weighty bust!), a persons trousers repeatedly falling down, or, in one of the greatest scenes of the film, a gay terrorist who refuses the charms of the lady but goes for the wimpy guy in classic style! As you can probably tell, I love the comedy used in this film but it certainly is not for everyone. If however the comedy on display agrees with you then City Hunter can easily be classed as one of Jackie's most enjoyable modern films.
The combination of comedy and action on display is superbly done, and although the martial arts action featured is mostly played for laughs it does not at all detract from the complexity of certain scenes. Two leading western martial artists feature prominently throughout and offer themselves not only as great opponents for Jackie but also work well as the demented terrorists they are playing. The first of the westerners is British born Gary Daniels who was (as you can see in the film) in fine form when City Hunter was filmed, his 'normal' sequences with Jackie are fairly short but the speed and fluidity of the action is a joy to see. There is also a not so 'normal' sequence involving Gary Daniels and Jackie Chan, it is of course the infamous 'Street fighter' scene that is possibly worth the price of admission alone! Here we see, in a very strange sequence, Gary Daniels transformed into 'Ken', and Jackie in various guises (including E.Honda and best of all, Chun Li!) from the hit Capcom arcade game, Street fighter 2. The action on offer here is almost completely wire based and mostly just a complete riot to watch due to its complete OTT nature, it is also far better than anything Van Damme ever did! The second of the Westerners featured, Australian actor Richard Norton plays the terrorist leader Donald Mac (some Wong Jing humour there!). His performance is superbly manic while the martial arts sequences involving him and Jackie are mostly great fun, but also feature some outstanding weapon work (including Jackie getting to show what he is capable of with a pole) that demands repeat viewing.
With all that said I have not even mentioned the superb supporting cast. There are several strong female characters throughout the film, from Ryu Saeba's assistant (played by the lovely Joey Wong) who harbours an interest for her boss, to the undercover agent (played by Naked Killer's equally lovely Chingamay Yau) who gives Jackie's character a run for his money and of course Japanese actress, Goto Kumiko who plays the runaway girl Jackie is searching for. This fine cast of lovely ladies is joined by Leon Lai, who does a fine job as a young God of Gamblers by stealing the majority of scenes he is part of as well as giving many fans a reminder that we need a (good) DVD release of God of Gamblers!
I know I have said this many times before, but yet again Hong Kong Legends have done an exceptional job with this DVD release. As to be expected the film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The print used is in very good condition showing practically no damage and also a very low level of grain. Colours are extremely vivid with very little to no evidence of colour bleed, detail is generally high although it could be better on the exterior scenes. The picture is simply stunning, especially considering the extreme use of bold primary colours throughout the film that could have caused all manner of compression problems, of which there are none to be found.
Both Cantonese and English dubs are presented in remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Unfortunately I have no access to a surround sound set-up, but can say that both tracks are very well presented with clear dialogue throughout with no signs of any sound problems. As for the choice of dubs, I personally always go with the original language option but with this film I believe it is even more of a requirement due to the many subtle vocal jokes that are only conveyed via the subtitles, whereas the English dub, while certainly in tune with the films style, loses out in the translation. For those who also prefer the original language you will be pleased to know that HKL have again provided us with English subtitles that are clearly presented using an easy to read font with no spelling or grammatical errors.
This DVD features possibly the best selection of extras Hong Kong Legends have so far bestowed upon us. Of course we get the standard original Theatrical Trailer and their own Promotional Trailer (both of which are highly entertaining), plus a largely redundant Photo Gallery (you will get better stills, and a far larger selection by pausing the main feature!) but with those standard features out of the way its time to look at some very entertaining extras.
The first notable extra is another highly informative and entertaining audio commentary from Hong Kong film expert, Bey Logan. Throughout the film we learn much about the various actors, from the main cast right down to the character actors. There is plenty of information regarding the various locations, the action taking place, but also what really adds to this particular commentary is the way Logan, on several occasions, gives his own point of view regarding the film itself, which, as a fan of Hong Kong movies it is quite interesting to hear a fellow fans more insider opinion. A pleasure to listen to I have even found myself opting for this commentary track over the films actual dialogue due to it fitting particularly well with the films visual nature.
Next up are three highly entertaining and informative interviews. The first features the star himself, Jackie Chan and is relatively short at just over three minutes. Here we see Chan talk about why he chose the part, and also how important timing is to him and his team. The second interview featured is with Richard Norton, this lasts for an impressive fifteen minutes and is solely based on Nortons experiences during the shoot of City Hunter. Norton is very easy to listen to as he talks at ease about his experiences with Jackie and his overall respect for the Chinese method of making action movies. The last interview features Gary Daniels and lasts for a full half hour, but not one second is wasted as we learn about how Gary started out, about all the training he has done over the years and finally about his work in films and in particular, his experiences while making City Hunter with Jackie Chan. Gary Daniels is, much like Richard Norton, highly entertaining to listen to but more importantly both are enthusiastic about the topics they cover. What really adds to Gary Daniels interview however is the inter-cuts with Gary's own Behind the Scenes footage that he took on the set of City Hunter, including a take where he actually hits Jackie by accident! Another added bonus to be seen during the Gary Daniels interview is a scene from Police Story that only adds to my need for this fantastic film on DVD! Even more of that fantastic Behind the Scenes footage from the Gary Daniels interview can be found in the 'Outtake Montage' which is a mixture of the aforementioned Behind the Scenes footage and actual outtakes from the film itself, lasting a total of just over four minutes.
The final extra present on this disc is of course the animated biographies. Although we have seen the Chan biography on previous HKL discs, and indeed more recent additions to the label what is exclusive to the City Hunter DVD is an interesting and highly informative Joey Wong animated biography that nicely brings us to the end of this fantastic disc.
Due to the comedic elements City Hunter could be slightly hit and miss for newcomers to the genre, but for the fans and indeed anyone who is interested, this Hong Kong Legends DVD is the only way to even consider viewing this supremely fun film.