From the 1980’s through to the early 2000’s one film-maker defined and influenced action cinema like no other, John Woo. He brought Hong Kong action cinema to the attention of worldwide audiences outside of Asia. I first was first made aware of him back in 1993 when his latest film, and his first Hollywood film, “Hard Target“, starring action superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme was about to be released. Before seeing “Hard Target” some months later, I came across a VHS copy of John Woo’s earlier film “The Killer” in the local video rental shop. When I watched the film to say I was blown away by it is a huge understatement. I had never seen an action film, or for that matter a film, quite like it before.
He took action cinema to a whole other level. In his hands action films transcended the genre and became acknowledged as works of art. “Bullet ballets” as they are called by many. Ballet is a great description because that perfectly encapsulates the action set pieces in all of John Woo’s films. He has many well known fans such as Martin Scorsese, who described John Woo as “The Hitchcock of action films,” and Sam Raimi who said “John Woo is to action what Hitchcock is to suspense.”
Unfortunately Hollywood and the MPAA smothered his unique talents, and then subsequently after his 2003 film “Paycheck” underperformed at the box office he returned to Hong Kong and China to continue making films unhindered by Hollywood constraints. His last film solely directed by him to receive a release outside of Asia was his epic two part historical film “Red Cliff” released in 2009.
Now “Manhunt“, his first solo directed film since “Red Cliff” to be picked up for distribution outside of Asia, is available to watch exclusively on Netflix.
“Manhunt” sees John Woo back working within the action genre that the majority of the audiences outside of Asia know him from. Even though some may not know his name they will be well aware of a number of his films, “Hard Target“, “Broken Arrow“, “Windtalkers“, and his Hollywood masterpiece “Face Off” starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage.
“Manhunt” is his first contemporary set film since 2003, and everything that has come to be expected from a John Woo film seems to be on show in the trailer. Most notably his beautifully choreographed and crafted action set pieces that are synonymous with any John Woo film. There seems be the character driven elements that have always set his films apart from most other film-makers within the action genre.
It is nearly 10 years since John Woo last film was released in the West and I am more than excited that his latest film has got a release outside of Asia.
Hopefully those who watch “Manhunt” and have maybe never seen one of his films, or even heard of, John Woo will be encouraged to also check out his earlier films, especially those he made in Hong Kong.
Judging by the trailer if you have never seen a John Woo film before you are in for an eye opening treat. For his fans it is a long overdue return.
Welcome back John Woo
“The Hitchcock of Action.”