Universal/1995/111m/ANA 1.85

         Quick. As fast as a blazing Samurai sword, answer the question: Who is J. F. Lawton? He’s the guy who directed the fast-paced Samurai fusion flick The Hunted. He also wrote Pretty Woman and the excellent Steven Segal actioner Under Siege. Lawton invests his scripts with well-drawn characters, little fat and lots of color. The Hunted is no exception and this time out Lawton is also the director.
     The set-up is economical. An American businessman in Nagoya, Japan meets a beautiful Japanese woman in a bar. Their reflections connect through the bar mirror and within a few beats of the drums they are romancing during a Kodo Drums concert in the park. While the two soon-to-be lovers ignite sparks, another scene is playing itself out as black garbed Ninjas infiltrate a high rise building. It’s the hotel where businessman Paul Racine will make love to Japanese beauty Kirina in her opulent Japanese style suite. Lawton films and inter-cuts the opening scenes with the precision of an old pro and the flair of a well-studied movie lover.
     The Hunted reaches its final moments in a battle reminiscent of Enter the Dragon and other martial arts movies of that ilk. On the way, Racine’s romance with Kirina will be cut short, blood will flow through a Bullet Train like a river of Vodka in a busy bar, and a century old feud will be resolved in the shadows of a family castle.
     To be sure, there are holes in the plotting and violations of logic, but they can be ignored without destroying the relentless nature of the film. How could the Ninjas fail to kill Racine the first time? Bad poison? Can Joe Businessman learn to wield a Samurai sword with expertise after a few short weeks? Yes, if he has experience brandishing Highlander swords. Never mind. The swordplay is dynamic, the characters consistent, and the production concentrated and polished. The film even intersperses its humor particularly well. In the tradition of many serious Japanese Samurai movies, humor is provided from a supporting character, in this case a master swordsmith.

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Is this Kinjo?. ŠUniversal

    Christopher Lambert is well-suited (in Armani) to his role as Paul Racine. Lambert romances Joan Chen (Kirina) in convincing style. John Lone is better than usual as Kinjo, the ruthless leader of the Ninja cult. While Lambert is the central figure, he doesn’t do most of the fighting. That’s left up to Japanese film veteran Yoshio Harada playing Takeda, providing ample style as sharp as the blade of a well-honed Samurai instrument of death. He’s no-nonsense in his swordplay. The man conducts business on the great bullet train sequence with consummate dispatch. Yoko Shimada is beautiful and loyal as Takeda wife, who pulls a mean bow.
     The Hunted has been turned into a ravishing DVD. The preponderance of nocturnal scenes suits the medium well. Velvet blacks dominate brightly transferred night sequences. Detail is consistently sharp on this anamorphic transfer. There isn’t the slightest hint of over-enhancement. Color levels are outstanding. Reds against dark backgrounds are dramatic and perfectly contained. The pounding drums that dominate the Dolby 5:1 soundtracks lends powerful support to the deftly cut action. Though not very aggressive, overall the surround mix embellished The Hunted with requisite power.     







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