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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Retro Review: City Hunter (1993) #JackieChan

City Hunter aka Sing si lip yan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gary Daniels, Joey Wong, Michael Wong
Genre: Action Comedy
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $30 million 

Plot: A self-indulgent private investigator winds up on a cruise ship full of rich patrons, gorgeous women, murderous terrorists, and scarce food

'Fans Of Chan's Should Hunt This Down'

When I saw a small clip of the Streetfighter scene in City Hunter on Youtube, I thought to myself that this would be too leftfield and bonkers for a Jackie Chan film - too silly that it would override Jackie Chan's performance and too daft for me to fully enjoy. 

Chan plays a private eye detective, Ryo who is also a ladies man - a far cry from many of his other roles, but also one that doesn't embody the real Chan as he plays against type, personality-wise. As far as roles go, it did feel a little strange to see him as a womaniser and misogynist who ogles women's breasts and arses. Thankfully, his turn is based on the anime itself and whilst Chan excels in the fighting and does well in the acting, it feels a little bit of a tall order to see him as a lecherous perv. Ryo is tasked with finding a missing Japanese girl; at first, he's a little apprehensive about it, but as soon as he sees a picture of her, he falls for her immediately. His search finds him aboard a luxury cruise ship with the terrorists headed by an evil maestro, Major McDonald played by Richard Norton, thus cue the odd gag about McDonald's the fast food joint. 

His Hong Kong action comedies have that slightly silly and juvenile slapstick humour that some people may not enjoy, and others like myself do like with the Lucky Stars films, Police Story. With City Hunter, based on the Japanese manga of the same name, it is a wild, crazy and absurd-filled ride from start to finish, which begins in bland fashion, but as it went on, the craziness was upped to the max and Wong Jing, who is far from being in the same league as John Woo and Corey Yuen when it comes to finesse and class with regards to his other films, manages to capture the tone and feel of the original Anime, whilst at the same time, it comes across as a Looney Tunes cartoon. 

However, Chan himself disowns this film, Wong Jing and Jackie fell out and never worked together again, with Jing retaliating with the bothersome Die Hard-ish turd, High Risk starring Jet Li and Jacky Cheung. 

The fight choreography is inventive, the action is nice to look at, even though it turns out some of it involves wire work, and the slapstick humour is a lot similar to Chan's comedies, but also it is very Japanese in nature too. The Streetfighter scene is ridiculously entertaining and amusing and is arguably the best version and usage of the Streetfighter franchise over the terrible live-action movies. I can't believe when I say that the brief Gary Daniels and Jackie Chan Streetfighter scene was more entertaining and watchable than the dross served by Jean-Claude Van Damme & Steven DeSouza of 1994 and the equally abominable Legend of Chun-Li flick with Kristen Kreuk. 

Australian martial arts actor, Richard Norton who was in Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars opposite Sammo Hung, is the main villain who squares off against Hung's brother, Jackie in the film and he manages to chew the scenery with his villainous turn. Norton would reunite with and opposite Chan in Mr Nice Guy with the plot set in Norton's native country, a few years later. Meanwhile, British martial arts B-movie actor, Gary Daniels does well in a smaller role as the Major's right-hand man. 

I was pleasantly surprised by City Hunter; it's nonsensical, barmy, the first half did nothing for me, but the final third is so over-the-top, it's also entertaining. As a Jackie Film, it's not brilliant, but it is also certainly not horrific or awfully trashy, despite some of the questionable scenes involving the females being beaten up and it's terribly uneven in terms of structure. Still, even with it being based on the Japanese manga and Anime, City Hunter still feels every inch atypical Chan action comedy flick fans of his have seen before. Which speaking as a fan, is a plus. 

Though the key was the second half and final third, due to the impressive action sequences - had they not turned out the way it did and made up for a dreary first half, City Hunter would have been a terrible film. 

Final Verdict:

It's the closest we have come to as a live-action Jackie Chan cartoon and whilst the comedy can be a little cringing and not to some people's tastes, this is still an entertaining and light-hearted affair and one shouldn't take seriously, but rather embrace its goofy nature and corniness. 

City Hunter is Chan at his quirkiest, madcap, but also unique, and contentedly still, it retains that Jackie Chan magic of many of his movie offerings


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