Mayhem maestro John Woo returns this year with Manhunt, a new action film in the same vein as his earlier classics like The Killer and Hard Boiled. It is a remake of the 1976 Ken Takakura-starrer of the same name, as well as an adaptation of the Japanese novel Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (aka You Must Cross the River of Wrath) by Juko Nashimura. The first international trailer has finally arrived for the film, which will premiere at the Venice Film Festival this fall, ahead of its theatrical debut in China in February.
Setting aside the over-zealous editing and generic marketing on display in this trailer, I’m really digging the vibe I am getting from this one. John Woo has been directing films since the late 1960s, but become an action filmmaking powerhouse by the mid-1980s with classic efforts such as A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer, Bullet in the Head, Once a Thief, and Hard Boiled. His jump over to America in the mid-1990s produced a different, but quite entertaining trio in the form of Hard Target, Broken Arrow, and Face/Off.
Unfortunately after that, diminishing returns started to set in. Mission: Impossible 2‘s operatic nature is intriguing, but it’s a bit too slick and ridiculous for its own good, making it the worst installment in the franchise to date. Things only became more watered down for Woo after that in forgettable outings like Windtalkers and Paycheck. Bottoming out in America, Woo return to China and later crafted the beautiful double-film epic that is Red Cliff.
Since then he has co-directed a wuxia film (Reign of Assassins) and made another historical epic two-parter (The Crossing). I have not yet seen either, so I cannot comment as to whether or not his renewed artistry from Red Cliff carried over. Manhunt looks like it could be a winner, but there’s always danger inherent in an older filmmaker attempting to reclaim past glories. Sometimes it can pay off in spades if they can tap into that same creative energy again, like with George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road and George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. More often than not, however, we end up with films like John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars or (worse yet) Alex Cox’s Repo Chick.
Here’s hoping that Manhunt ends up falling into the former category.
Manhunt is the latest film from acclaimed director John Woo. It is produced by Gordon Chan and Chan Hing-kai. The film stars Zhang Hanyu, Tao Okamoto, Ji-won Ha, Jun Kunimura, Wei Qi, Masaharu Fukuyama, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Yasuaki Kurata, Naoto Takenaka, and many more.
Manhunt will arrive in the U.S. sometime in 2018.