Quick. As fast as
a blazing Samurai sword, answer the question: Who is J. F. Lawton? Hes the guy who
directed the fast-paced Samurai fusion flick The Hunted. He also wrote
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. Its 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, Racines 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.
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 doesnt do most of the fighting.
Thats 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. Hes
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
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 isnt 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
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