After a fairly hefty slice of disappointment at recent viewings of “classic” Jackie Chan films, I admit I was a bit nervous about revisiting this. He was such a big part of my film youth, but would this one still hold up? “City Hunter” has a somewhat confusing provenance. It started off as a “manga”, basically, a comic book, and under that format released many volumes of adventures, each one focusing on one damsel in distress that our hero would have to save, romance, and ignore if a more beautiful woman came along. There have been multiple animated series, a live action TV series, and many alternate versions where the characters have been borrowed for other very similar series. Jackie Chan’s film version is nothing but a footnote in the Wikipedia article about the franchise, and he’s apparently said he’s not happy with it. Perhaps it’s an indicator of how he’s not a very good judge of his own work, as it’s hilarious! The craziness starts from the very first second and never lets up. He’s a complete doofus of a private eye and, along with the orphaned daughter of his former partner, is assigned the job of hunting down the missing daughter of a wealthy businessman. This and associated shenanigans leads them to a cruise liner and a bunch of jewel thieves, and…it’s really not important. The plot is absolutely only there to be a backdrop for the jokes and stunts. Talking of backdrop, there’s a scene that seems to go on forever with a comedy musical dance troupe, zero relation to the plot, so I have to assume they’re friends of the producers or something.
The stunts are, just as standard for a Chan movie, fantastic. There’s a skateboard chase through oncoming traffic, a gun battle across the top of the boat, multiple fantastic fight scenes, and most famous of all, the “Street Fighter” fight, where Chan and main bad-guy muscle Gary Daniels get electrocuted by a Street Fighter arcade machine and turn themselves into all the different characters from that game. It’s amazing, and is a rare example of blatant product placement being used for something interesting (talking of product placement, the character E Honda has his name changed in the film to E Honde because of Chan’s lifelong sponsorship deal with Mitsubishi).
Yet again, we must resent the portrayal of women in these films. Despite him being a scumbag – one of the women in this film says of him, he’s “reputed to be an infamous sex fiend” – he’s irresistible to women and has three of them lusting after him. Still, it’s pretty much par for the course, but what isn’t is the reshooting of an entire scene because the women in the background weren’t pretty enough. If there’s ever a sentence which sums up everything wrong with the attitudes of this sort of cinema, it’s that. The icing on the cake is a frankly disgusting homophobic scene, which was so appalling that the European distributors cut it out of the original release. One of the people on the cruise ship says of the (largely caucasian) jewel thieves, “I hope they all get AIDS and die”. There’s a scene of gay panic in there too, but that’s pretty minor in comparison.
So, an extremely entertaining film, chock full of comedy that works, by and large, with a huge number of thoughtfully laid out fight scenes too. But, it’s so thoroughly awful in some of its execution that it’s difficult to just kick back and have a good time with it; even appearances from ISCFC favourites Richard Norton and Gary Daniels aren’t enough to tip the scales in its favour.
I don’t even think it’s to do with me being a feminist, or a socialist – there’s no reason to have attitudes like this in film, and you don’t need to be actively political to have this leave a bad taste in your mouth. You just need to care about people being portrayed equally, no matter their gender. When we’ve just reviewed a film like “Pride”, a magnificent film about gays and lesbians, this seems even more archaic, more from the 1950s than the early 1990s.
Rating: thumbs in the middle
You can read RJW’s review of ‘City Hunter’ by clicking here