‘City Hunter’ Review: Jaw-Dropping Action Sequences & Solid Performances Elevate An Otherwise Generic Film


If you are a chronically online person, you must’ve heard the phrase, “This movie or show couldn’t have been made now.” and usually they are talking about The Office or Blazing Saddles. There is this general idea that something that is a “product of its time” should never be reevaluated, and the world of entertainment is becoming less enjoyable with every passing second because everyone is becoming “woke.” Firstly, things like sexism, objectification, and misogyny were as bad back then as they are now. It’s just that there weren’t enough people to call it out. And secondly, if your comedy relies on demeaning a whole gender, then you are the one who needs to improve, not the rest of the world. With that in mind, I have to say that City Hunter is an obnoxious piece of art because its protagonist is an omega-level pervert. Yuchi Sato has tried to make him palatable, and, well, I guess he should get some points for trying.

Based on the manga by Tsukasa Hojo, City Hunter tells the story of Ryo Saeba and Hideyuki Makimura, a two-man team who take on various kinds of missions for the good of mankind and some money, I suppose. They are tasked with finding a girl called Kurumi. Ryo and Hideyuki come really close to getting the job done, but Kurumi suddenly displays her superpowers and exits the scene. She drops two vials filled with some kind of blue liquid that Hideyuki picks up with the aim of analyzing it later on. He doesn’t inform the police or Ryo about it and goes off to meet his stepsister, Kaori. Things go awry as another superpowered individual crashes into the Makimura birthday party and stabs Hideyuki to death. While Ryo seemingly goes back to his old ways, Kaori becomes determined to catch Kurumi and learn about the producers of the blue liquid, because that item is probably the reason behind her brother’s death.

Tatsuro Mishima’s script for City Hunter is pretty generic because it’s probably trying to do a bunch of things at the same time. He wants to comment on the insidious connections between law enforcement authorities, the beauty product industry, and the military industry, and brace yourselves, cosplay conventions. Since the source material is egregiously sexist, Mishima is clearly trying to make Ryo Saeba look like a functional human being while also appeasing the fans, who probably love the sleaze and the cringe of the manga. He is trying to make Kaori and Kurumi feel like three-dimensional women and not sentient sex toys. He is attempting to give Ryo and Kaori an emotional arc. In addition to all that, he is telling the story through the action set pieces. Hence, the plot beats end up feeling quite bland. Mishima definitely tries to balance out the blatant objectification by punishing Ryo for being a pervert, and making him protect a woman’s dignity. However, it’s sort of upended by some of the visual storytelling.

The opening scene of City Hunter has a first-person shot of Ryo looking at a woman’s cleavage. There’s even a digital zoom coupled with a sound effect to amplify the sexism. That’s followed by Ryo snooping on bikini-clad women. And while you can say that that’s done to put the audience in Ryo’s shoes, during the cosplay convention scene, the camera is placed in a way to get an upskirt shot of a cosplayer, and that’s not from anyone’s point of view. It’s just there to help the audience look at a girl’s underwear. After that, it doesn’t really matter how comedically Ryo stops ugly photographers from clicking awkward photos of Kurumi with his horse-crotch cosplay. The only thing that manages to wash away the bitter taste of all that perversion is the action. Yuichi Sato and his team hit the ground running with an audacious action sequence that’s been shot, edited, and performed to perfection. The fight sequence at the cosplay convention is genuinely jaw-dropping. Then, there’s the shootout during the concluding moments of the film that got my blood pumping. The use of environments, the music, and the kineticism—it all feels fresh and lively. And I can’t help but appreciate that.

In terms of performances, despite the flawed writing in City Hunter, it never seems that the cast isn’t giving it their all. Ryohei Suzuki is, as the kids nowadays say, locked in. From the first frame to the last, the man exudes this seedy kind of charm, which is offset by his efficiency during the action sequences. I mean, Suzuki looks really damn cool while shooting a gun, and he looks especially cool when he starts switching between guns and magazines like it’s a walk in the park. Misato Morita spends most of her screen time being scared and confused about what’s going on. But it’s the undercurrent of humanity that makes her relatable. Asuka Hanamura, despite being the lynchpin of the film, is severely underwritten. However, she ensures that you get a sense of the hopelessness and lack of direction that the youth are experiencing in a time where people can have millions of followers online and yet be totally alone in real life. Fumino Kimura has an incredible screen presence. Masanobu Ando is impactful, even though he doesn’t get a lot of screen time. The same can be said about Ayame Misaki. Moemi Katayama absolutely knocks it out of the park during her show-stopping action scene. Yasushi Ami delivers some solid punches. Takaya Sakoda is undeniably menacing. But, at the end of the day, all of them would have benefited from a better script.

Based on the trailers and the promotional material, I thought City Hunter was going to be a simple action-comedy. The action was satisfactory, but I guess I was blindsided by the fact that the comedy was so misogynistic in nature. Maybe if I was familiar with the source material, I would’ve been better prepared to tackle some of the film’s perverse stuff. I wouldn’t have excused it because that’s unethical. However, it’s possible that my reaction to the film’s unique brand of sleaze wouldn’t have been so visceral, thereby nearly derailing the whole viewing experience. I’m not saying that there’s no way to do a sexual action comedy in the 21st century. For starters, I think that the subgenre will benefit from the perspective of female directors, writers, and cinematographers. The writing needs to stop making women the subject of objectification. And, most importantly, the topic of voyeurism needs to have some level of self-awareness. Now, do I recommend giving City Hunter a watch? Well, I think the action is top-notch, so watch it for the action and ignore the rest.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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