Gorgeous women galore! Fast-paced furious fun, Jackie Chan-style! Hilarious slapstick humor! Lack of logic! Those phrases immediately pop up in my mind (especially the last one) the moment I think of City Hunter. In fact, out of all the Jackie Chan films I have seen so far, I found City Hunter to be the most unrealistic one yet. If I were a real professional movie critic, I would immediately begin to slam City Hunter for being a fairly contrived and heavily ludicrous film. Then again, I am not a professional movie critic. However, as a zealous fan of action cinema, I realize that most action films (and especially action-comedies) tend to be ludicrous and contrived, but hey, these characteristics add to the charm of these movies. This is probably a redundant statement, but if you despise watching ridiculous films, then City Hunter is not an ideal movie for you to watch with that special someone. For those out there who are willing to give this film a look though, it is best to send your common sense on a vacation before watching City Hunter. Think of this movie as Die Hard on the Love Boat starring Jackie Chan.
Based on the animated Japanese TV series of the same name, City Hunter features the ever popular Jackie Chan as Private Detective Ryu "City Hunter" Saeba, part-time gun-for-hire and full-time butt-kicking ladies' man. Ryu's life takes a tragic U-turn when his former partner and best friend, Hideyuki Makimura (Michael Wong) happens to receive twenty bullets (inflicted all over his body) as a parting gift. We never find out who these killers are or why they have decided to exterminate him. Hideyuki's dying words to Ryu before passing on are to take care of his cousin, Kaori, and especially remember NOT to seduce her. As the years quickly pass by, Kaori (Joey Wang) would blossom into a lovely lady and eventually become Ryu's assistant in fighting crime--but alas, since Ryu has vowed never to seduce her, he must practice his wooing skills on other women...
Ryu Saeba's latest assignment (should he choose to...he is going to accept it) is to track down Shizuko (Kumiko Goto), the daughter of a wealthy Japanese tycoon. Ryu's chance encounter with Shizuko eventually leads to an extensive skateboard chase on a highway...with rather disastrous results. Needless to say, Ryu has failed at completing his task and decides to return home, feeling rather distraught. As soon as Ryu returns home, he is accosted by a group of beautiful women and finds himself in an euphoric state once again. Unfortunately, Kaori just manages to catch Ryu in the act...
Disheartened by Ryu's overall horny behavior, Kaori decides to ditch the private detective and instead go on a cruise ship with her neurotic cousin (who thinks that he is Romeo, but he acts like that Butabi character from Saturday Night Live). Ryu, who is also disheartened by all of this, decides to follow Kaori aboard the same cruise ship. How did Ryu manage to sneak aboard the cruise ship? I will not reveal his dirty secret; you have to see it for yourself.
The passengers aboard this luxury cruise ship are a very diverse group. They include a gambler (Leon Lai), who holds a deck of lethal flying playing cards, an attractive undercover agent, Saeko (Chingmy Yau) and her inept partner, plus two extremely annoying rap singers (Eric Kot and Jan Lamb, a.k.a. the "Hard and Soft Team"). Coincidentally, another passenger aboard this cruise ship is the tycoonâ(TM)s daughter whom Ryu has been searching for.
Of course, this is an action movie so there are also bound to be terrorists lurking aboard, and indeed that holds true. The situation eventually transforms into a Die Hard scenario when the terrorists, led by Col. MacDonald (Richard Norton) and his assistant (martial arts expert Gary Daniels), believe that it is time to hijack the ship. The Captain and his crew members are viciously executed and the terrorists have taken most of the passengers hostage. The remaining few passengers -- including Ryu and the foxy ladies -- must join forces and find a way to thwart the terrorists before they turn the love boat into a death cruise.
Despite the overall absurdity of this movie, City Hunter is a lot of fun thanks to the superb cast, the visual gags, and the stylish direction of Wong Jing. Wong Jing, an immensely popular and prolific Hong Kong-based filmmaker is certainly not known for making the most plausible films ever made. However, while his films are short on comprehension and coherence, they are nevertheless energetic, lively, and certainly insane. City Hunter is the perfect candidate that contains several of Wong Jing's trademarks including over-the-top action scenes and dumb juvenile humor as well as stylized editing and camerawork.
Basically, when watching a Wong Jing movie, reality does not matter. You should not only suspend your disbelief; you should chain it up and toss it down a river. City Hunter is a comic book which has been magically animated into a live action feature. Better yet, think of this film as Under Siege gone berserk! There is an exhaustive amount of action in this film, a plethora of laughs, a bit of romance (mostly shown by Ryu's womanizing), and a lot of stupidity here.
The name Jackie Chan is synonymous with the phrase "Action!" and in that department, City Hunter will not dissatisfy the die hard connoisseur. Trust me, there are enough outrageous action sequences in this film to make your head spin! There are certainly a number of breathless action moments worth mentioning. One such example: the aforementioned skateboarding chase scene taking place on a freeway. Admittedly, that moment was not particularly exciting thanks to the sub-par camera tricks, but it was cool enough. Another fine action scene guaranteed to please even demolition fans is watching Chan run down the corridors as loud explosions take place behind him. Yet another highlight is when Chan utilizes Chingmy Yau as a "lethal weapon." The finale itself is excellent, it is definitely one of the most exhilarating full contact fight scenes I have ever seen on celluloid. Now that is pure adrenaline!
One of my all-time favorite fight scenes though, is the one which occurred in -- of all places -- an arcade place. I do not want to spoil the excitement here, but the viewer gets to watch Jackie Chan and opponent Gary Daniels transform into various actual characters from the Street Fighter II video game! Of course, that scene is also rife with special effects, fighting moves, and sound FX from the video game itself. Another highly amusing fight scene takes place in the theater. The theater just happens to be showing a clip of the legendary battle between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the kung-fu flick Game of Death. Meanwhile, Chan is fighting a couple of colossal terrorists. Just when Chan was about to be clobbered by these guys, he suddenly receives inspiration from (who else), Bruce Lee. Watching Chan mimicking Bruce Lee's combat moves on the movie screen was an absolute hoot.
Overall, the action scenes in this movie are great, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor amid all of the beatings and shootings. Although many of these scenes rely on various camera tricks and so forth, they do little to diminish the impact of the excitement. As for Chan, like an acrobatic dancer taking center stage, he is simply amazing to watch.
Unlike most Die Hard clones, City Hunter has a refreshing, intentional sense of humor that only adds to the film's entertainment value. Unfortunately, I saw the poorly dubbed English version of this film so I laughed whenever the voices were not in sync with the moving lips, but that is typical. I should also comment that City Hunter is meant to be more of a parody rather than the straightforward shoot 'em up thriller. Why? Well, most action flicks (such as Mitchell and countless others) have a propensity to portray their heroic detectives as drunk, lazy, somewhat bumbling, and womanizing. Well, in City Hunter, Chan himself does a funny job mocking those aforementioned stereotypical traits of a heroic detective. Another case in point, the action sequences. How many movies out there do you know would be so audacious as to pay homage to the Street Fighter II video game or the classic Bruce Lee flick Game of Death?
Another such amusing moment in this movie was a dream sequence, where the main character was swimming--and that suddenly, he found himself surrounded by beautiful girls everywhere! In that same dream, he (unknowingly) talks about Kaori. In any case, City Hunter works effectively as an action-comedy because the martial arts action blends well with farcical humor. The outlandish situations that Jackie Chan gets involved in will have you laughing quite often, but also grimacing at times as you wonder how Jackie manages to endure all of the physical pain.
Well, many of the jokes in this film are downright corny (the guy who played Kaori's cousin should earn an award for overacting), but they will still make you laugh. Wong Jing keeps the film spiraling at an invigorating pace so that the genuinely funny jokes will help counterbalance the not-so-funny jokes. However, one supposedly funny scene, which the filmmakers should have made more serious, involved the death of Ryu's partner. The filmmakers were rather foolish to make a joke out of Hideyuki's demise. Had they made his demise more tragic and less goofy, Hideyuki would have been a more sympathetic character.
As a side note, for reasons beyond me, the director has chosen to throw in some random (and indescribable) musical number titled "Gala Gala Happy" in the middle of this flick, which obviously has no pertinence to the movie. Are you scratching your head? I do not blame you.
Frankly my dear, I have to give Wong Jing credit for gathering a top notch cast. Jackie Chan once again is in top form as the woman-obsessed private detective who sometimes exhibits ineptitude, but is nevertheless worthy of the nickname "City Hunter." Leon Lai also gives a solid performance as a charismatic gambler who has a few deadly playing cards up his sleeve. The main antagonists, played by martial artists Richard Norton and Gary Daniels are appropriately evil and worthy of a loud hiss from the viewer.
However, I think that what truly gives City Hunter its appeal are the dazzling ladies. Although Joey Wang's character was a little too whiny for my tastes, I still liked her a lot. The women in general exhibited independent, strong-willed personalities which makes them even more admirable (in spite of the fact that many of the females were stereotyped as physically weak). Special acclamation goes to actress Chingmy Yau (fans may remember her from Naked Killer) who portrays the ultimate femme fatale in this flick. She is strong yet sexy. Overall, the luscious ladies in City Hunter will make guys drool!
Generally, the production values are adequate and the camera work is fine. However, the editing and various camera tricks did at times interfere with the martial arts choreography itself, though they did not distract too much from the action. There are also enough pyrotechnics and stunts to ingratiate the audiences.
I must reiterate that City Hunter does not make a lot of sense. Quite often during the movie, you will be asking yourself, "How the hell can that happen? What is going on here?" Just keep in mind that Wong Jing has a habit of displaying style at the expense of logic. With that said, City Hunter is silly and shameless fun for action fans.
City Hunter is one of Chan's best-kept secrets. I will not go so far as to say that this is one of Jackie Chan's best movies (if you want to see Jackie Chan at his peak, go check out The Legend of Drunken Master) but it remains one of my favorites. City Hunter is swiftly paced, with a wealthy abundance of sight gags and terrific fight scenes. Of course, the fabulous female cast is also a definite asset.
Hey, if your idea of humor is watching Jackie Chan fight while dressed up as Chun Li, then City Hunter is the right choice for you.