By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Surprisingly, Christopher Lambert doesn't even touch a sword until the end of "The Hunted," though the movie's trailer would make it seem like the film is another "Highlander" with Lambert slicing villains left and right.
Lambert plays Paul Racine, an American businessman traveling through Japan. After a one night stand with a beautiful Japanese woman (Joan Chen), he returns to her apartment to see her executed by a mysterious ninja named Kinjo (John Lone).
Racine is injured and, while he is in the hospital, a modern-day samurai, Takeda (Yoshio Harada) and his wife try to convince him that Kinjo is now after him. Soon Kinjo and his ninjas invade the hospital, and a chase across Japan ensues.
The movie is directed by J.F. Lawton (the writer of "Pretty Woman") with a glossy visual style that choreographs its fights well, using the camera angles to amplify Racine's vulnerability and confusion and make the ninjas seem all the more fearsome.
But the movie is a little too slick and too superficial. Through most of the movie, Racine is haunted by avant-garde dreams (looking like Saul Bass title sequences) of Kirina, but their love affair was so MTV-like and visually composed that it never seemed very passionate or genuine.
Working off of the Kirina spirit motif, the movie tries to evoke an aura of mystery surrounding her character and the spirit world in general. Kirina returns in Racine's dreams as a tragic figure, and haunts Kinjo's thoughts. But the spirituality theme is never developed, and is only thinly draped over the action plotting.
It is also tragic that Joan Chen ("Twin Peaks," "The Last Emperor") is relegated to a role that only presents her as an enigmatic beautiful woman who wears a slit red dress, has a sex scene, and then is killed in the first 10 minutes of the movie.
However, the film does benefit from the presence of Yoshio Harada ("Ntworare Shusuke"), one of Japan's most acclaimed actors. His dignified poise helps make his character appealing.
Unfortunately, the movie contains some extremely stilted dialogue, such as a Japanese woman's trite explanation concerning Racine's hallucinations caused by a poisonous wound: "In small doses, the poison helps you to see into the land of the spirits." The superstitious dialogue is woefully trite.
For the indiscriminate action fan, "The Hunted" could be enjoyable, but its glossy superficiality, sketchy characters and decorative spirituality leave a lot to be desired.
"The Hunted" is showing at Century Gateway 10, 790-9000.
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