City Hunter: The Motion Picture

When I initially heard of City Hunter, I didn't really know very much about the series, other than it was supposed to be quite good. I guess I was expecting a not-too-serious cops 'n robbers kind of flick, something along the lines of Lethal Weapon. The story begins with Amy, a young, talented actress starring in a major production and the idol of many. There is one thing missing in her life, though, her brother who vanished on his eighteenth birthday. Returning to her dressing room one day she discovers a bouquet of black roses, which hold special meaning for her and her brother. She quickly enlists the help of Joe Saeba, the "City Hunter" to help find her brother. However, a mastermind criminal known only as "The Professor" surfaces and seems to have his sights set on poor Amy. Joe must hurry to uncover the link between Amy and the Professor before the Professor puts his master plan into action; a plan that threatens to destroy all of Shinjuku. City Hunter takes several genres and integrates them nicely. The characters are fleshed out and three-dimensional, and the movie takes on rather dramatic tones at times. There's also some pretty decent action tossed in the mix, highlighted by a thirty minute finale involving a train that will explode if it's velocity dips below 60 kph (ala Speed). And it just wouldn't be City Hunter without Kaori conking Joe on the noggin with a giant mallet every time he looked up a girl's skirt. Even though this is based on a rather lengthy TV series, prior knowledge of the characters and situations is not required. This is quite fortunate since this is the first commercial release of City Hunter in North America, and it is quite a good introduction to this series. A.D. Vision did take some liberties with the title, since this movie isn't "the motion picture", but rather an end-of-season tv movie originally entitled City Hunter: Goodbye My Sweetheart. They also changed the names of some of the characters for the dubbed version. Ryo becomes Joe and Saeka becomes Sandra. This is only a minor quibble since most of the names are left intact and the subtitled version has the originals. At the heart of City Hunter are the endearing characters. Joe is the illustrious "city hunter" and can probably best be described as a cross between Riggs from Lethal Weapon and Kintero Oi from Golden Boy. His partner is the enigmatic Kaori, who always has an endless supply of mallets for poor old Joe. They form a perfect duo requisite for any good action movie, with Joe's wild antics contrasted by Kaori's somewhat more level-headed nature. Their supporting cast includes Falcon, a mercenary who owns a diner, and Sandra, a member of the police force. The conflict, though, revolves mainly around Amy and "The Professor". I really enjoyed the depth of these two, and as the plot progresses a lot of detail is revealed, both in their respective natures and their pasts. And it was certainly refreshing that while the Professor is more-or-less a stereotypical arch-criminal, he at least possesses solid motivations for his actions. The plot, however, is fairly derivative of most action movies out there. The Professor mainly does all sorts of not-so-nice things like breaking felons out of prison and threatening to blow up the city unless he receives a whole lot of cash remuneration. There are some twists and turns in the plot as the secrets of the Professor and his ties to Amy are revealed, but truthfully, I really didn't find the story line that engaging and was often distracted by the eccentricity of the main characters and situations. That's not to say that this movie has a bad story line, it's just wholly unremarkable. On the other hand, things do progress nicely into a rather good thirty minute action finale involving a speeding train, several helicopters, and a couple rather large explosions. I enjoyed this part of the movie the most and admit the ending is pretty tense and exciting. Not to mention the moment when Joe "disarms" Kaori in the cockpit of the train. That bit had me rolling on the floor. The art and animation are a tad bland, but given that this was originally a made-for-tv movie, that's not a big deal. Sound effects were quite crisp sounding and the music was well done (particularly the end theme). The English voice-acting was pretty solid, if a bit unspectacular. Ultimately, City Hunter: The Motion Picture is a fairly enjoyable action flick in the same vein as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard 3, and such. And if those kinds of films float your boat, then you'll have no trouble enjoying this one. 

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