He wowed with home efforts with Hard Boiled, he made the occasional jump to western action cinema with films like Face-Off and he could even make a grand epic like Red Cliff. It really has been a while since one has heard the words “A John Woo Film” against a piece of action cinema. I honestly can’t remember the last time I properly watched a John Woo film. So when the sudden release of Manhunt, streaming on Netflix, popped up on my radar – I thought it was something to indulge with once more.
Manhunt sees a lawyer (Hanyu Zhang) from a high profile pharmaceutical company accused of a shocking murder. Clearly desperate to prove his evidence, like all wronged men in these type of films, goes on the run. Soon aided by a maverick Japanese detective (Masaharu Fukuyama), the lawyer tries to piece together who would want to frame him while avoiding corrupt cops and a wave of very deadly assassins.
For those who have missed the action shenanigans of John Woo, Manhunt delivers a perfect sample of what makes the director an action cinema icon. Yes, the plot is pretty much as generic as it can be with the wanted man set up. It also gets a bit ridiculous – see the introduction of Masaharu Fukuyama into proceedings. Fukuyama, exerting a cool confident swagger, taking down two hyper violent kidnappers and then giving a stern yet senpai style pep talk to the young boy he’s rescued. It’s just one of many moments of exaggeration one could expect from a John Woo film. But I came into this to see some good John Woo caliber action set pieces and that’s exactly what we get. Even those little touches – dual wielding pistols, motorcycle chases, assassins, fisticuff scraps in sand, there are moments within Manhunt that will remind you of John Woo’s back catalog.
I think if anything felt slightly off it would definitely be the sudden third act turn into militarized medical testing which decides to dabble in some science fiction roots. But then John Woo likes to set his action in medical facilities – see Hard Boiled and M:I-2 for previous escapades of his exploits in this setting. It’s gloriously over the top as the proceeding action but strangely doesn’t feel like a natural fit to what we’ve been through before the final showdown. It’s a small quibble in a very passable, if unfortunately pretty generic, piece of Eastern action cinema.
Ultimately, if you’ve missed watching John Woo’s action spectacular, you can’t go wrong with Manhunt. It’s not a masterpiece but for action cinema fans, they’ll probably be pleased they at least went on the run with it.
Manhunt is now available for streaming on Netflix.