City Hunter [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (8th October 2018).
The Film

Ryu Saeba (Police Story's Jackie Chan) is a Japanese private detective better known by the nickname "City Hunter" used derisively by all but himself whose libido and healthy sense of self-confidence constantly gets him into trouble, particularly with his pretty assistant Kaori (Ashes of Time's Joey Wang) whose romantic pining of which he has been oblivious since he swore to take care of her when her cousin and his former partner Makimura (Legacy of Rage's Michael Wong) was killed on the job. Sent to Hong Kong by wealthy Koji Imamura (Angel to Be Sacrificed's Kenzo Ogiwara) to track down his rebellious daughter Kyoko (Memories of You's Kumiko Goto) who ran away when he told her of his plans to remarry, Ryu not only fails to apprehend her but incurs Kaori's jealousy when her surprise birthday party for him is crashed by a group of beautiful women who, unbeknownst to her, are actually the vengeful girlfriends of men he has put in prison. Kaori walks out on him to join her amorous cousin Rocky (The Iceman Cometh's Lap-Man Sinn) on an ocean cruise. Ryu stows away on the ship only to discover but spends more time running from the crew and looking for a bite than reconciling with Kaori. Also aboard the ship is undercover cop Saeko (Naked Killer's Chingmy Yau) and her top-heavy partner (Flirting Scholar's Carol Wan) acting on intel that the ship is going to be robbed by terrorists. Ryu only discovers that Kyoko is also on board having stolen a ticket from a creep in a clothing store while evading Ryu when she runs into him while fleeing said terrorists lead by MacDonald (Rage and Honor's Richard Norton), along with his henchmen Kim (Fist of the North Star's Gary Daniels) and Mike (A Better Tomorrow II's Mike Abbott), who is planning to take the ship hostage at midnight, fleecing the millionaires on the ship and throwing anyone else overboard. When the clock strikes, it is up to Ryu, Kaori, Saeko, her partner, rappers DJ Hard (Jan Lamb) and DJ Soft (Eric Kot), along with gambling king Kotetsu (Fallen Angels' Leon Lai) and his razor-edged cards, to take on a fleet of gunmen while waiting for help from the mainland.

Based on the Japanese manga, previously adapted into a series of cartoons in the late eighties, City Hunter is pretty terrible for those of us who acknowledge the unintentional cartoonishness of Chan's action vehicles; indeed, it is the film's attempts to be by turns comic book-ish and cartoonish with tired devices like canted angles, supersaturated colors, overcranked or undercranked movement, rotoscoped animation, and even word bubbles. Chan pulls faces, Sinn mugs for the camera, Wang is yet another shrill love interest, Wan does not even get a character name but her bosom is the camera's focal point, with Yau coming off with some dignity (the most nuanced comic reactions actually come from martial artists Norton and Daniels). Daniels' anticipated showdown with Chan is undermined by editing and special effects gags, but at least Norton's fight with Chan resembles something like what we expect from a Chan vehicle. The film may or may not play better for fans of the manga, but pretty much everything about the film as undertaken by seasoned writer/director Jing Wong (Royal Tramp) with Chan and his stunt team helming the choreography and filming of the action scenes is just obnoxious.
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Video

Released theatrically in 1993 in the UK by Screenpalm in its uncut version, the film had a VHS in 1995 from Imperial in a cut running some three minutes short of the uncut version's PAL timing before being restored for Hong Kong Legends' 2001 DVD which featured an anamorphic transfer, Bey Logan commentary, and new Cantonese and English-dubbed 5.1 tracks created by Fortune Star. After a poor quality Tai Seng DVD in 1999 with upmixed 5.1 tracks, the Fortune Star master and remixed 5.1 tracks appeared in the US in 2003 from Twentieth Century Fox, but that transfer's colors looked noisy and the image was interlaced. The Hong Kong Blu-ray was another of Fortune Star's upscales, and that master was ported over by Shout! Factory for a double bill with Battle Creek Brawl. Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from a new 2K restoration. The Police Story/Police Story 2 2K restorations have been criticized for color timing leaning towards the cool side, but it is hard to tell with City Hunter given the film's predominant saturated blue, red, and neon color scheme, although flesh tones do look a tad paler. Whatever the case, it is a good-looking rendition of a garish film.
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Audio

Audio tracks include Fortune Star's Cantonese and English 5.1 mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio, but the effects tracks sound recessed in both, and the latter's vocals are not only poorly cast but sound a little like Chan inhaled some helium. An LPCM 2.0 Cantonese stereo downmix track is also included along with an LPCM 1.0 track which may also be a downmix or the original with so-so effects levels. It is hard to determine which of the three tracks is actually preferable in quality, but the film performances are overall better in post-dubbed Cantonese than English. The original English dub created for the film is included as an LPCM 1.0 track and is the preferable one of the two English versions, having better vocal performances and a louder effects track. Two virtually-identical sets of English subtitles are included, the second one including translation of the "Gala Gala Happy" sequence which the producers apparently prefer left untranslated (one can see why by the terrible lyrics).
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Extras

Extras start off with pair of archival interviews with Jackie Chan (10:03 and 3:37) in which he discusses his motivations for City Hunter in wanting to do something different, but also something light in tone in preparation for his more somber turn in Crime Story, the challenge of doing something deliberately cartoonish in terms of visuals and action sequences, and his praise for Norton as not only being able to act and do comedy but also adapt to his fighting rhythms. In the interview with director Wong Jing (7:12), he also expresses the desire to do something different with City Hunter, although he distinguishes it from other Chan films by his own attempts to make the women more than attractive set dressing. The interview seems to be extracted from a longer piece that also encompasses his collaborations with Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li, and Sammo Hung. In the interview with stuntman Rocky Lai (10:56), Lai (The Legend of Drunken Master) recalls getting into stunts when visiting his older brother who was on Chan's stunt team. He discusses the process of conceiving and directing the action scenes with Chan with Jing handled the dramatic material, and cites his participation in the gambling scene, the explosive climax, and the SWAT scenes. The interview with actor Richard Norton (15:15) finds the actor/martial artist recalling how he met Chan while in Hong Kong working on Magic Crystal and contrasting his experiences with fight choreography and camera covering in American films with those of Hong Kong films (in which a fight scene could take weeks to film with viewings of the dailies determining whether to add more material or cut back on it). Most interesting is the lengthier interview with actor Gary Daniels (29:49) who recalls being enamored of Bruce Lee at eight years of age, training in Kung Fu and then Taekwondo (getting his black belt at age fifteen), and moving onto kickboxing while teaching in London. When he wanted to go train in the states, he was advised that Florida was cheaper than Los Angeles and he got his first small TV and film roles there before landing a six-film contract in the Philippines which netted only two finished action films before the producer wanted to move onto softcore erotica. Moving to Los Angeles, he started getting more lead roles and was contacted to be in City Hunter while shooting Knights for Albert Pyun who supported his desire to work with Chan by rearranging the shooting schedule. He still arrived late for the shoot, but that meant that instead of his introductory scene being his arriving on the boat alongside Norton, Jing added a new scene that introduced him training and doing the splits. Like Norton, he also discusses the use of separate drama and action directors, as well as the differences between fight choreography and shooting in Hong Kong. The remaining extras include an outtakes music video (2:34), outtakes montage (4:32), Japanese ending credits (3:35), theatrical trailer (3:59), and Hong Kong DVD trailer (1:49). Not included for review were the limited O-card and booklet included with the first pressing.
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Overall

The film may or may not play better for fans of the manga, but pretty much everything about City Hunter is just obnoxious.

 


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