For fans of action films, the 1980s was a golden age, beginning with all-time classics such as, First Blood and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and on and on with epics like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Escape From New York, and Robocop. This amazing period also marked the rise of incredible action stars like Schwarzenegger, Norris, Willis, Ford, Cruise, and Murphy — many of whom are obviously still working today (for better or worse).
Yet, the 80s was also an incredible decade for action directors, such as James Cameron, John Carpenter, Richard Donner, and George Miller. However, one of the most unexpected and influential action directors of that era was Hong Kong’s John Woo, whose distinct visual style somehow managed to stand apart from his Western contemporaries. Woo was an innovator, a director who borrowed elements from different genres, resulting in something new, unique, and unmistakably visceral. A Hong Kong-based action film by John Woo was unlike anything being produced in Hollywood at the time.
Woo’s trademarks were absolutely insane practical stunts, an ocean of blood splatter, and slo-motion, double-fisted gunplay that’s been equated to a kind of violent ballet, which have been coined “gun fu” and “heroic bloodshed.” Woo became a cult figure in the North American market largely thanks to the explosion of VCR’s and video rental stores, which introduced classic action movies like A Better Tomorrow I/II, The Killer, and Hard Boiled.
Woo brought his auteur style and techniques to Hollywood in the 90s, but the results were decidedly mixed: Hard Target, Broken Arrow, Face/Off, Windtalkers, and Mission: Impossible II. Since 2008, Woo has channeled his energy into making video games, television series, and Chinese-language costume dramas that haven’t exactly broken through in the West’s CGI and greenscreen extravaganzas.
Today, fans of John Woo are cheering a return to his crime-thriller roots in: Manhunt, a remake of a 1976 Japanese action classic, starring the late Ken Takakura). The film is about a man falsely accused of committing multiple crimes, and is desperately trying to clear his name. The action is classic Woo, with plenty of running, sweating, shooting, and blood geysers.
While the plot and action cuts in this trailer don’t immediately scream new or innovative, it would be a mistake to underestimate a John Woo action film — the action looks non-stop and there’s kimono-wearing hit-women (if that’s not trending already, it probably should be). We don’t yet have a North American release date, but the film will debut internationally at the upcoming Venice Film Festival on August 30.
Does Manhunt represent a return to form for the Hong Kong maestro John Woo? Let us know in the comments down below!
Manhunt will premier at the 74th Venice Film Festival on August 30, 2017.
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