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ON DVD & BLU-RAY

City Hunter (1993) starring Jackie Chan Blu Ray (Eureka!)

Terrorists take over a cruise liner

This adaptation of the Japanese manga comic of the same name features Jackie Chan as a woman-chasing private investigator named Ryu Saeba, aka. City Hunter, who works with his trusty sidekick and perpetually frustrated semi-girlfriend Kaori (Joey Wong). His latest job is to seek out Shizuko (Kumiko Goto), the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate who has run away with a skating gang.

Jackie Chan in City Hunter

When Ryu catches up with her, she beats an escape with the help of the other skaters and manages to evade capture by slipping into a clothes store, where she disguises herself in a suit stolen from a lecherous older man. Inside the suit’s inner pocket, she finds a ticket for a ride on a cruise liner and decides to use it to flee the country. By coincidence, Kaori, who is fed up with Ryu’s constant flirtations with other women, opts to take a break on the same cruise with her cousin Hideyuki in tow.

Ryu himself sneaks aboard the liner by hiding in a luggage bag. Various comedic mishaps ensue as he attempts to get hold of Shizuko. However, things take a turn for the violent as a gang of terrorists, led by Colonel MacDonald (Richard Norton) and his muscular henchman (Gary Daniels), highjack the ship.

Watch a trailer:

Cartoon-like Jackie Chan

City Hunter is a real oddity in Jackie Chan’s filmography - one which seems to attract a divisive reception amongst fans. Most of Chan’s films from this era are shot in a distinctively no-frills manner and focus squarely on the actor’s stunt work and martial arts fight sequences. This one, on the other hand, is a wildly stylised affair. Bright, impeccably-coordinated primary colours practically leap out of the screen. Scenes are heavily-edited and shot from all sorts of weird angles. The slapstick comedy is more overtly cartoon-like with a bunch of surreal imaginary moments, silly sound effects and the like. It’s more of an attempt to translate the feel of the manga comic strip and anime cartoon versions to live action than anything else. Another notable difference is that, while there still are a number of trademark Chan stunts and fights here, the action places an unusually heavy emphasis on gunfire and shootouts. At times, you might well be convinced that you are watching some sort of Die Hard clone (incidentally, the Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege, another “Die Hard on a ship”, was released during the previous year).

City Hunter adaptation (1993)

Depending on the frame of mind in which you approach it, City Hunter can come across as being either incredibly goofy, a veritable pop art gem, or - more likely - a bit of both. Some of the attempts at appropriating cartoon visual gags - Kaori imagining herself hitting Ryu with a huge hammer, or our hungry hero seeing a woman’s body parts as burger buns and chicken legs - seem quite awkward and forced when translated to live action. There’s a bit of humour involving older men lusting after barely adult girls which is doubtless in the spirit of the original Japanese manga but seems a tad creepy from a British standpoint.

On the other hand, there’s a marvellous fight in the ship’s cinema where our hero learns how to take down two incredibly tall terrorists by copying moves from Bruce Lee’s fight with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death which happens to be showing on the screen in front of them. When you consider that Chan was once touted as “the next Bruce Lee”, it’s a pleasingly affectionate homage. There’s another fight sequence where he is thrown into a Street Fighter II arcade machine and starts to imagine himself playing various characters from the game, complete with their signature gestures, special moves and background tunes. Leon Lai also pops up as a suave gambler character who uses playing cards as shuriken-style throwing weapons. The climactic showdown between Chan and Australian martial arts star Richard Norton is a more conventional but superbly-choreographed pole fight.

City Hunter Street Fighter II homage

It’s completely bonkers stuff and, while its tone is somewhat misjudged on occasion, it’s never remotely dull at any point during its runtime. Recommended, if only as a curiosity.

Runtime: 99 mins

Dir: Wong Jing

Script: Wong Jing, based on the manga by Tsukasa Hôjô

Starring: Jackie Chan, Joey Wong, Richard Norton, Gary Daniels, Kumiko Goto, Chingmy Yau, Michael Wong, Leon Lai

Blu Ray Audio-Visual

This 2K restoration is spot-on. Those brightly-coloured visuals look wonderfully vivid here.

Extras

Archival Interview with Jackie Chan 1

The star talks about City Hunter and his well as his frustrating early 1980s experiences of working in America.

Archival Interview with Jackie Chan 2

Here, he reveals that he decided to sign up for City Hunter because he was attracted to playing a different, more cartoon-like character than usual. He also talks a little about working with Richard Norton.

Interview with director Wong Jing

The director talks about the City Hunter cast as well as his experiences on some of his other films working with Chow Fun Fat, Jet Li and Sammo Hung. He also briefly discusses his cinematic influences (he’s a great admirer of Norman Jewison, curiously enough) as well as (N.B. this interview was clearly taken a long time ago) how the Hong Kong film industry should deal with the approaching 1997 reunification with Mainland China.

Interview with stuntman Rocky Lai

Rocky Lai, who was at this time working as part of Jackie Chan’s stunt team, discusses how he got into the industry and his experiences on both City Hunter and Twin Dragons. He reveals that, in the earlier days, there was rather less concern about on-set safety than there is now.

Interview with Richard Norton

Norton gives us some insights into the arduous challenge of working on a Jackie Chan film. While Wong Jing was City Hunter’s nominal director, the fight sequences were left entirely in Jackie’s expert hands. Norton’s climactic fight with the star took 6 weeks to shoot since he won’t accept anything less than perfection. The choreographed scenes would often require about 30 takes to get right. Shooting days usually lasted 18 hours, 7 days a week. Most of all, the fights feature actual blows rather than pulled punches that you would see on American films. Phew.

Interview with Gary Daniels

London-born actor Daniels talks about how he got into martial arts, the various styles and disciplines which he got involved with (from tae kwon do and kickboxing to ninjutsu) and his early film career in the Philippines (where he was, at one point, asked to make soft porn - he refused). For the second part of the interview, he discusses his time working with Jackie Chan on City Hunter. Daniels clearly has great respect for Chan and Hong Kong martial arts cinema and his insights into working on the film - from the on-set injuries to the rather on-the-fly approach to filmmaking - are truly eye-opening.

The other extras here include outtakes, the Japanese version of the end credits, two trailers and a limited edition collector’s booklet.

Overall:

This is a decent enough presentation of what is arguably Jackie Chan’s strangest film. The interviews seem to have been culled from older releases but are worth a look if you haven’t seen them before.

Movie: ☆☆☆1/2

Video: ☆☆☆☆

Audio: ☆☆☆☆

Extras: ☆☆☆1/2

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