Make no mistake, The Hunted is a terrible movie, but I'll be darned if I don't have a certain affection for it. It has four things that I find irresistible: 1) a very photogenic-looking Japan; 2) swordplay; 3) Christopher Lambehr; 4) Yoko Shimada.
If the name Yoko Shimada rings no bells or presses no buzzers, think back a bit. She was the one who played Lady Mariko in Shogun — probably the only English-speaking member of the entire Japanese cast — and had been a veteran of many Japanese movies before then. (One of the best, Vessel of Sand, was based on a best-selling mystery novel which I need to get around to reviewing one of these days.) She's been tapped only occasionally for American movies, which is a shame — the only other productions I've seen her in are Christophe Gans's Crying Freeman (based on the manga of the same name) and a rather dismal 1985 movie called My Champion, about a Japanese-American long-distance runner. Her presence alone makes this movie bearable.
Too bad most of them film is about Lambert as a computer salesman named Racine, currently in Japan for a conference. At his hotel, he meets an enigmatic woman (Joan Chen, also very easy on the eyes) whom he winds up spending a very steamy evening with. Turns out it's her last night on earth as she's been marked for death by Kinjo (John Lone), a ninja clan leader bent on taking over Japan (or at least having the Rolling Stones play there again, or something). Racine is a witness to the woman's murder, the ninja chase him, and he escapes only because they have a police detective character come in and scoff at how silly the whole ninja-in-this-day-and-age thing is.Read more
There's little chance of Takeshi Kitano ever making a truly bad movie, but Kikujiro shows he is capable of making a confused one. After Violent Cop, Sonatine, Fireworks and many other superior Kitano movies, Kikujiro comes off as aimless. And while Kitano's never been strong on plot, a movie that's a little aimless from him means it's a great deal more aimless than most others, especially considering his predilection for long moments of stasis and quietus. The end result is not boring, but stranded, which is equally problematic.
The movie, I think, want to subvert or overturn a whole subgenre of sentimental movies in which a kid tries to reunite with one or more of his parents. The boy in question lives with his grandmother, who works the day through and leaves him meals. With school out, his friends gone and soccer practice suspended, there's nothing for him to do. One day he learns his long-lost mother is alive and well somewhere else in Japan, and hatches a plan to visit her. But he'll need a guardian, and he finds one in Kikujiro (played by Kitano himself). Read more