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City Hunter (1992)

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[Movie Reviews]


-Jackie Chan
-Joey Wong
-Richard Norton


Based on the anime of the same name, Jackie Chan plays Ryo Saeba. Ryo Saeba is a private detective who is hired to find and return the daughter of a big businessman. Ryo is always a player, much to the dismay of his partner Kaori. Through a misunderstanding, he angers her so she leaves to go on a cruise. Ryo ends up on the cruise with Kaori and the girl he is looking for, only to find that a group of terrorists are plotting to take the rich passengers hostage.


Comics have an infamous history of making terrible live action films, at least in the U.S. While not terribly familiar with the City Hunter anime, I certainly had hopes that the HK film industry could pull a decent film out of such material. My hopes were, unfortunately, let down. There really is a point where elements of a comic or anime stop translating well to live action. City Hunter managed to find that point and blow right past it. With poor acting, cheesy comedy, and mediocre action, City Hunter holds no more than a few chuckles for the 90 minutes you'll spend on it.

City Hunter is all about going over the top. The acting, the effects, the comedy.... everything. It is all a little too over-the-top. Acting is universally poor, with everyone overacting everything. This may have been what Wong Jing wanted, but it sucks. After a few minutes it gets damn annoying. The comedy is straight out of a cartoon, including gags like hitting someone with an oversized hammer. The sound effects are even straight out of a cartoon: boink, bam, crash. It is an interesting approach to converting comic to live action, but it is just hard to buy as such. The absolute worst is during a scene where Ryo and his opponent take on the personalities of Street Fighter II characters. Not only is this very, very cheesy but it is out of place. It is obvious that Wong Jing wanted to stick it in there just because he had the rights to use the game in a movie, regardless of wether it fit. Sorry, man, we don't buy it.

The one thing that fans are always able to feel good about in a Jackie movie is that at least the action will be decent. Well, City Hunter manages to even take that away from us. Action is mediocre at best, with no sense of excitement or tension. Some action parts are completely off the wall, yet lacking any flair or excitement to back them up. Others are more reasonable, but are fairly dull. Even the best fight in this film is worse than most fights in other Jackie movies. The only impressive piece of choreography to be found was when Ryo takes on a guard in red with a machine gun and manages to get the machine gun strapped around his own shoulder, after a few crazy moves. Beyond that, the action is disappointing.

City Hunter is a hard recommendation for anybody. It has many weaknesses with few redeeming traits to make up for them. There are a few laughs throughout that prevent the movie from being too bad, but that's about it. Jackie is a great comedian, but this just isn't his type of comedy and the combination doesn't work. Jackie fans may wanna check this out just to see what this role is like for Jackie. City Hunter anime fans may want to see how the film translated. Both groups will likely be disappointed, but it is an experience. Everyone else should just stay away.


-Wong Jing


-Original Cantonese language