There is an argument ensuing as we speak over whether Netflix original movies should be considered actual cinema. The case against these films seems to be that they are almost never released in theaters, often showcasing cheaper than average production values, and more often than not, they end up sans promotion, lost in the abyss of what Netflix has to offer its subscribers. The case for? They are releasing brand new films seemingly monthly by titans like Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese and JOHN. WOO. Saying that the product of the man behind classics like Hard Boiled or The Killer isn’t considered a film is like saying the Sistine Chapel isn’t art because it’s not on a canvas. His newest film Manhunt is a Netflix original, and there will be no Woo slander in this household.
There’s a very real chance that you might end up watching Manhunt half a dozen times and still have no idea quite what it’s about, however.
If this is you, you might be me, and I might be my only reader. Hi me. Let’s not mince words here, though: John Woo is a legend and Manhunt is a complete delight. Zhang Hanyu plays Du Qiu, a lawyer that has been framed for the murder of a mysterious woman. He ends up on the run from no less than three forces out to collect on his bounty, including an outstanding Masaharu Fukuyama as Detective Yamura and two assassins, Rain (Ha Ji-won) and Dawn (Angela Woo), who had previously met Du Qiu prior to another hit they placed on Yakuza. There are white doves. Motorcycles. Jet skis. A convoluted plot involving a pharmaceutical company whose plot to make everyone turn into roided out Hulk monsters sounds suspiciously like the Blanka b-plot in the Street Fighter movie.
If what I described sounds like entirely too much for a film that doesn’t even run two hours, you’re correct. Manhunt is John Woo making every action film he has ever made… at the same time. So why, then, does this work? Your mileage will vary. Despite the plot running so convoluted that it may as well not even have a script, this is Woo delivering pure pleasure straight to your brain, straight to your home. This isn’t thought provoking cinema designed to challenge your worldview; this is a capital m Movie designed to make an action movie that’s a little less grim and a lot more fun.
Manhunt is the kind of film midnight revival screenings were made for. We’ll always have Face/Off and A Better Tomorrow; let’s go ahead and add Manhunt to the canon now.
You can stream Manhunt on Netflix now.