The Hunted may well be one of the best ever Western ninja movies with some classic action scenes (the bullet train is a particular highlight) and awesome characters making this one of Christopher Lambert’s finest hours.
Plot: Paul Racine (Lambert) is a high-powered executive living abroad in Japan. When he and his alluring companion, Kirina (Chen), find themselves the targets of assassins, Racine is ensnared in a web of intrigue and danger. His attacker, the ruthless Kinjo (John Lone, The Last Emperor), orders his minions to kill Racine, the only outsider ever to have seen his face. To survive, Racine must join forces with a powerful samurai warrior with a score to settle. Together, they battle against impossible odds to settle a centuries-old conflict in this action epic set in a deadly forbidden world.
Review: I got The Hunted starring Christopher Lambert on Blu-ray for Christmas and it had been a few years since I last watched it. I forgot just how awesome it is and consider it one of the best films he’s ever done. How can you go wrong with a movie featuring ninjas, after all?
Shout Factory put together the rather amazing Blu-ray a couple of years ago with some incredible special features like a remastered Workprint version of the film with alternate scenes, behind the scenes footage, audio commentary and deleted scenes. Admittedly they don’t add that much but it is interesting to get more backstory on Kinjo (John Lone) who plays the primary antagonist but we also find out that Racine had a wife who died. The audio and visual quality are faultless so it’s been perfectly remastered. I wish Cobra or Hard Target would get a fully updated workprint edition and I could think of several other movies that would be great to get the same treatment as The Hunted.
The movie itself has an engaging story with truly memorable characters; it’s funny but Christopher Lambert’s protagonist Paul Racine is almost a side character with the real badass of the story being Takeda (Yoshio Harada) who is inhumanly cool and skilled.
After a one-night stand, Racine witnesses a group of ninjas murdering the woman (Joan Chen) he was with and they leave him for dead. While in hospital he is visited by Takeda and Mieko (Yôko Shimada) who offer to take him to an island where he will be safe from Kinjo and his assassins… however, Takeda has his own reasons for wanting to bring Racine there.
The action scenes are bloody and the bodycount is high but it would be remiss of me not to mention that the sequence on the train might well be one of my favourite action scenes of all time. I had never seen anything like it before and it showed us what an amazing warrior Takeda was.
Kinjo is a malevolent villain who fights without honour as we discover in his final showdown with Takeda and yet John Lone still brings great charisma to him.
There are some choice pieces of dialogue and Lambert was always good with the one-liners; I like how Racine isn’t a cop or ex-military. He’s just a normal guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time so we sympathise with his predicament.
The score is filled with Japanese sounding percussion and works perfectly in creating tension and excitement for the action scenes.
Overall, The Hunted is a bit of a ninja classic which manages to hold up to modern scrutiny with memorable characters and superlative action scenes. I recommend picking up the Shout Factory Blu-ray as it is packed with special features and is one of the many reasons I still collect physical media.