Friday, September 12, 2008

The Head Hunter

The Action Mutant…
swore this film was going to be about Samoan wrestlers.

The Head Hunter

review by Joe Burrows

I read the greatest book ever the other day and my only complaint is that someone else (namely me) didn’t come up with it first. Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal is written by Ain’t It Cool News reviewer Vern & goes through the big man’s entire film career (from Above the Law to his most recent Pistol Whipped). Each film is dissected by Vern to reveal not only some pretty groovy facts (in Hard to Kill, its noted in the script that Seagal’s Mason Storm has a tape of Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” on his car’s tape deck, showing it wasn’t just a random tape from the prop dept.) but some of the recurring Zen philosophy in his films. It’s also funny as all fuck, too (check out an excerpt here, reviewing Seagal’s first music album). Well, I guess I better get started on that Dolph Lundgren retrospective before someone beats me to that.

The Plot, as it was:
Chow Yun-Fat stars as Nguyen, a pyro guy for a movie studio that is also a hitman on the side (Note: dream life!). He’s been a contract killer ever since his stint in Vietnam & hopes to bring his family to Hong Kong one day (as they are still in Vietnamese exile). Nguyen develops a relationship with news reporter Vicky Lee (Rosamund Kwan), who is on the trail of people responsible for a string of deaths involving toxic nerve agents that were originally used in the war. She traces them to Nguyen’s boss, so Nguyen gets the order to off his girl & he understandably has his doubts. Along with holding a damaging secret from Vicky, Nguyen is also pursued Kim Tai-Yung, a soldier Nguyen left for dead in the war and now has an axe to grind (and a machete to swing).

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
The Head Hunter (or The Long Goodbye in some circles, not to be confused with Altman’s classic) would have been better if it were infused with some John Woo in the director’s chair & an increase in skill level in…oh, just about every area there is. To be fair, a youngish Yun-Fat does his usual serviceable work with a subpar script & the film certainly picks up when an action scene comes about. It’s obvious the filmmakers were going for an epic Actioner, as many flashbacks (complete with orange-tinted film), dream sequences & allusions to Vietnam are incorporated. However, the editing & lighting is pretty bad and the stock characters & plotting do not help much. The plot is somewhat ambitious & tries to tackle other subplots but it all ends up muddled & lacking. The action is the sole saving grace at times, as its not Woo-level chaos but its well done in its low budget standards. As it stands though, The Head Hunter isn’t too much better than the schlock Chuck Norris would be putting out a few years from this (though it is cheaper to find).

Body Count/Violence: 24. Though titled The Head Hunter, only two decapitations are offered up within the flick. There’s bloody shooting, stabbing, fighting, suffocation, impaling, grenades & explosions and gassing. Not as gory as Yun-Fat’s later efforts with Woo but it works.

Sexuality/Nudity: There are two sex scenes and though the one with Yun-Fat is pretty steamy, nothing is shown in either. A woman is also hung with her arms splayed out & is partially nude but nothing’s really seen.

Language/Dialogue: Not much at all, with only one “bastard” and not much else.

How bad was it?:
There’s not much to go by from either critics or moviegoers but what’s out there isn’t very complementary. The highest praise was middling at best and most other comments stated that even diehard Yun-Fat fans may have their difficulty watching this.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Seasonal Film Corporation released The Head Hunter in HK theaters on 3/25/82 & it made $4.2 million HK in a typically short run. It never saw any American theaters (that I know of) & is available on DVD under this title and its alternate English title, The Long Goodbye.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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