Updated: Aug 4, 2021
John Woo (1946-) is the most important Chinese filmmaker of today. His use of self-conscious montage is exceeding any other genre filmmakers including Hollywood. When we met at Taipei government office in 2006, he taught me about his way of directing a film in front of hundreds of film students and journalists who flooded the large hall.
First, he does not draw any story board by himself instead he does montage list(shot list). It is true that his ex-DP Mr. Lin Zanting during earlier days of Mr. Woo's Taiwan era testified this fact. The main reason is his use of multi-camera operation and its highly exaggerated and consciously conducted multi-camera editing. The latter is dominant feature and tendency of Hong Kong film expression. The other one is importance of understanding various use of shots. It can be interpreted as director's deep knowledge of cinematography and montage. All of them is true and effective even in student filmmaking. Furthermore, Mr. Woo is the kindest filmmaker ever met. On the country to elegant Ang Lee and Hou Xiaoxian. I remember him with perfect image and full of respect as a gentleman.
The film Manhunt (Mainland China/ Hong Kong coproduction, 2017) is dedicated to Ken Takakura's famous action film Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (1976). The story is a kind of Red Corner and Fugitive type story that involving huge pharmacy which is developing a new stimulant which enabling subject to be more powerful and aggressive; innocent lawyer Du Qiu set up by them for Red Corner-like plot; Gerard-like detective Yamura who finds innocence of the fugitive Du Qiu during chasing him on the road, at the end they corporate to destroy the CEO of the evil pharmacy, Sakai. This is the main action line.
Manhunt is done by Sakai's evil pharmacy. Sakai is like antagonist of Hard Target (1993), Emil. Evil company is manhunting the most poor day workers and homeless. This reflects class war and its class society to the certain extent, and its framework is typical feature of John Woo films even in The Better Tomorrow (1986) see the boss of taxi drivers and Kurata in this film. Thus John Woo's film is well accepted by the working class. And it is quite realistic that Japan has this kind of issue that delivery workers and its village are manhunting target and place for evil companies. John Woo grabbed the common reality of the workers' situations. I was highly impressed by his approach to the most poor people. You cannot see it in other Chinese directors' films even though it is art film. Who criticised Western military-industrial complex like this film? This film's evilness is originally created by western military-complex which wants new and marketable weapons from Sakai's pharmacy. John Woo is a brave man!
Holding two guns, pigeons, infinite gun fire, explosions, bike chase are all signifiers of John Woo films. It is also included in this updated version of Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (1976) and John Woo's traditional hard boiled action films.
About dialogues of Japanese actors, I think it is too rude that they actually affected by Kitano Takeshi's howling yakuza movies like Outrage series. All of them are not like detectives, police officers but they are more like yakuzas.
For editing and cinematography, it is pretty interesting to do dissolve with defamiliarization. In one scene, Yamura and Rika's close ups are dissolving unnaturally in clear order from the right to left. After Rika's close up dissolved completely, then Yamura's CS starts to dissolve mechanically. This kind of defamiliarization is also Hong Kong film aesthetics. The shots are full use of crane, Steadicam, drone, bike camera and multi-camera operations. The extension and variety of camera works exceeding any Japanese films that made by TV guys.
In conclusion, John Woo is back to his tradition of hard boiled romance action successfully with correct corporation with the Asian film giant Mainland China and its cinema industry. Please keep it up!
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to www.ryotanakanishi.com is provided.
This film article is for educational purpose only.