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City Hunter (Netflix)

City Hunter (Netflix)

Written by Ross Locksley on 01 May 2024

Distributor Netflix • Certificate NA • Price NA

I finally had the chance to sit down and watch the Netflix adaptation of City Hunter, based on the beloved manga series by Tuskasa Hojo which made its debut in 1985. Following a lecherous private investigator named Ryo Saeba, the series spawned a media franchise and was popular in both Asia and Europe for it's fast-paced action, comedy and beautiful women.

Director Yûichi Satô does a wonderful job bringing the character to life, wasting no time in creating a madcap and insanely choreographed chase scene across the city as Ryo and his partner Makimura (a very likeable Masanobu Ando) chase down a missing girl who exhibits extraordinary abilities. Crashing through windows, into bars and apartments (with people just looking over as he barges through saying "Oh, hi Ryo" proving that he's pretty infamous around town) the fight scenes, madcap pratfalls and even a scene with Ryo flying through the air on a lilo ("like a pervert Aladdin") are as genius and highly entertaining an opening to a film as any I've seen. Tone, skills and personality all deftly introduced against the backdrop of Tokyo, which has never looked better on film. After 20 minutes, the film rolls an opening sequence showcasing some excellent music and a stylish rendition of the City Hunter logo. 

This kinetic feast now over, the plot proper kicks in. It seems that people are being kidnapped and experimented on before going nuts and killing people - sadly Makimura doesn't survive the initial investigation and now it's down to Ryo and Makimura's adopted sister Kaori (played by Misato Morita who has a great face for incredulity) to unravel the mystery and find out just how far the conspiracy goes - from dirty organisations, crooked cops and mysterious underground organisations, Ryo and Kaori can trust no one.

The film loses some of its energy once it shifts gears, which is a shame but thankfully not fatal thanks entirely to the performance by leading man Ryohei Suzuki. His range is absolutely masterful, switching from hard-bitten and dangerous veteran of the streets to flamboyant performing artist (his striptease has to be seen to be believed) and lecherous swine almost instantly, with a level of charisma and charm that are genuinely captivating. Everyone in the film feeds on his energy and I have to take my hat off to the casting director - Suzuki is pitch perfect.

I don't want to spoil the film, which is at heart a mystery noir thriller, so I'll leave the specifics there. In general, the film never really lives up to the opening, but that's not to say it's ever dull or unimpressive. The final fight scenes and gun-fu are enormous fun to watch, Kaori finding an excellent supporting role where she's clearly still green but holding her own through gritted teeth, Ryo dancing around her and covering all flanks as he proves himself immensely capable. By the end you realise that no matter how many armed thugs they throw at Ryo, they're still grossly outmatched, and while that takes the film into ludicrous territory, it is again saved by the swagger of its leading man.

There are some nitpicks - it does sag a little in the middle, and I was waiting for the next adrenaline shot to kick in. The main villain isn't particularly memorable either, just another suit with nothing to mark him out as any more dangerous than anyone else, and certainly no match for our lead. This makes the ending, which really should be an emotional journey for Kaori, fall a bit flat despite the best efforts of all involved. A couple of twists are given away too early, which takes the wind out of the final encounter.

I will give the film a lot of credit for taking the more undesirable traits of Ryo Saeba and keeping them as grounded as they realistically can. Yes, he's a boob-obsessed pervert with a stash of "vintage" blu rays in his apartment, but there's actually very little exploitation of the women in this film, with Ryo himself showing far more skin than any of his female co-stars. At a cosplay event he's literally photo-bombing three nerds trying to take panty shots of the competitors before two goons show up and start attacking. There are shades of Galaxy Quest in this section of the film and it's a very welcome nod to how fandoms often behave. Basically, if you're worried about Ryo's lechery being off-putting, you needn't be. Like everything else here, the director keeps a sure hand on proceedings and keeps our protagonist likeable but eccentric.

City Hunter (Netflix)
One of the highlights of the film's mid-section, Ryo blocking panty shots dressed as a horse-riding sheriff..

At a smidge over 90 minutes, the film keeps things tight, taking a bow at just the right time and on a perfect note, even working in one of Kaori's signature weapons. Should we be lucky enough to see any sequels, they just need to keep the energy up and find a more compelling villain to take on our hero. As it stands, this is an entertaining and memorable film thanks to the sure hand of its director and the sheer charm of the leading man.

Never quite captures the energy of the opening scenes, but no doubt this is an excellent adaptation of a beloved character and let's hope we have more adventures to come.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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