Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Hunted (1995)

The Action Mutant…
only hunts what he can microwave!

The Hunted (1995)

review by Joe Burrows

There are the Willises and the Schwarzeneggers. The action heroes of the largest scale that deal with terrorists and world domination. There are the Seagals and the Van Dammes. The action heroes that are a few steps back from where they once were, who deal with enemies whose problems aren’t on that grand of a scale. And then, there are the Christopher Lamberts. He is on your video store shelf about 97% of the time and is mostly likely content to stay there. The problems he deals with won’t likely bring you to your knees but they challenge nonetheless. In this one, he’s being chased by ninjas. Go on, check it out. It’s not half bad. Even if being chased by ninjas isn’t something you will have to deal with soon. Or maybe you will. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Plot, as it was:
Lambert plays Paul Racine, a businessman taking a trip to Tokyo. While there, he meets a mystery woman in a red dress (Joan Chen) and it’s only a few hours before they do the cookie-nook in a hotel room hot tub! After he leaves, he mistakenly takes her room key so he goes back to return it. Only when he returns, he stumbles in on a band of ninjas executing her via decapitation with a sword! They poison him and send him to the hospital but not before he sees the leader’s (John Lone) face. Two samurai (Yoshio Harada & Yoko Shimada) bent on taking down the ninja clan bust Paul out of the hospital and aid him in running from the ninjas. One final battle on an island fortress concludes the proceedings.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
This film seems to have “ridiculous mess” written all over it but it ends up being a fun ride for the most part. Director J.F. Lawton directs with few lags in the story and there is even a surprising bit of humor at some moments (“Stop saying “Hi!” so much!”). The real fun is in Harada’s performance, as he shows real intensity in dealing with his enemies. It is definitely intense as compared to Lambert, who hops from seemingly distant to sleepy at a moments notice. The odd thing is that it’s obvious that Lambert composes some kind of presence on screen. However, it just seems like he doesn’t show the same passion for revenge once the film hits the halfway point. Harada’s samurai is so hell-bent on vengeance you almost wish the film was about him entirely. That would mean we wouldn’t be privy to the few effecting scenes Chen has, though it’s obvious she’s been wasted in her performance (shit, her agent must suck!). Thankfully, there are enough effective action sequences and samurai grandeur to make this flick worthwhile.

Body Count/Violence: 73! Yes, to equal the lofty standards set by Death Wish 3, it better be a damn bloodbath! And is it ever! Though a few are shot to death, the majority of the dead are sliced & diced by samurai swords. Most of those deaths occur in one of the best action sequences I’ve seen in quite a while. See, the ninjas board a bullet train that Paul and the two samurai are on. The trio tries to warn the passengers as they trek to the back of the train. It proves to be mostly futile, as the ninjas slaughter the passengers (car by car) until they reach the back. Takeda (Harada) then slaughters the ninjas by his lonesome, tossing them around like cordwood. The highlight is a female ninja that has her face revealed, so she removes her identity, so to speak (think about it for a while). The final battle on the island is also fun but nowhere near the inspired lunacy of the bullet train madness.

Sexuality/Nudity: As mentioned before, Lambert and Chen have a frolic in a hot tub, where you can see her chest and his bum. There’s also a scene where Lone is bathed by a topless woman from the back and a fully nude woman from the front. I think the moral of the scene is ninjas have it good.

Language/Dialogue: Some mild language but nothing too out there.

How bad was it?:
The usual mixed bag from reviewers, though the positive reviews weren’t overwhelming. They were more of the **1/2 “middle of the road” variety.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
I guess Universal must have thought there was a possibility the film might have legs because they opened it on 1,552 screens on 2/24/95. It did a respectable 5th before falling all the way down to 15th the following week and closing out. It pulled in $6.6 million, which is gravy for any Lambert film not called Highlander. (Note: No budget figures were available.)

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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