Action maestro John Woo (Face/Off) revisits the style of his Hong Kong films for this throwback action thriller set and filmed in Japan.
Hanyu Zhang (The Great Wall) plays a Chinese prosecutor visiting Osaka who wakes up next to the body of a young woman and is falsely presumed to be her murderer. On the run from both the law and a powerful pharmaceutical company, he finds an unlikely ally in a lone wolf detective played by Japanese star Masahara Fukuyama.
Manhunt is a loose remake of a 1976 film starring Ken Takakura, known as the "Japanese Clint Eastwood". Woo has cited Takakura as a formative influence on his own work and Manhunt is intended as something of a homage to the actor.
It's also, of course, a return to the style of film Woo made in Hong Kong before heading to Hollywood for Hard Target in 1993. Woo's last American film was 2003's Paycheck, and since then he's made several period films in China, but this is his first movie in years to directly evoke beloved favourites like The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992).
Zhang is a sympathetic enough lead, but Fukuyama easily walks away with the movie as a classic Woo lone wolf cop and Woo's daughter Angeles co-stars as an assassin.
But as fun as it can be at times, Manhunt doesn't really hold a candle to either of those stonecold classics. The plot is heavy on contrivance, and the over-the-top saxophone score further undermines the extremely wobbly tone.
The Hitchcockian set-up quickly gives way to a series of set-pieces that evoke the spirit of Woo - balletic gun play, motorbike action and of course fluttering doves – without delivering the stirring emotions that are supposed to come with them.
Cast: Zhang Hanyu, Masaharu Fukuyama, Qi Wei
Director: John Woo
Running time: 109 mins
Verdict: A fun, if often silly, throwback to '90s-style action.