‘I don’t fight for honor. I fight to win’
The Hunted is an intriguing and action-packed gem from the mid-nineties. It features engaging performances from Yoshio Harada and Christopher Lambert.
The film begins with New York businessman, Paul Racine (Christopher Lambert) in Yagoda, Japan where he’s selling computer chips. At a hotel bar, he meets the nubile Kirina (Joan Chen) wearing an elegant red backless dress. They bond over drinks and decide to go see a Taiko drum concert together. Later, they have a one night stand back at the hotel. Racine is then asked to leave. When he attempts to come back in, he witnesses a ninja, Kinjo (John Lone) decapitating Kirina with a sword. After seeing him, the ninjas slash at him with a blade and throw a shuriken, dipped in poison, at his neck.
The men that attacked Racine were ninjas from a cult called, the Makato. Their leader, Kinjo believes that because a foreigner has seen his face, he must die. Kinjo has an army of ninjas in a forest. He believes that the foreigner has stolen a piece of his soul.
Racine, now recuperating in a hospital, is visited by master swordsman, Ichiro Takeda (Yoshio Harada) and his wife Mieko (Yoko Shimada). They want to escort Racine away to the safety of their island. Racine initially refuses Meiko’s assistance. Ninjas soon attack the hospital with shurikens, smoke bombs, arrows and darts. They kill guards, orderlies and policemen. In the melee, Racine narrowly escapes and contacts Mieko.
Mieko and Takeda meet Racine at a train station. On the train, they get attacked again by ninjas, who decide to start killing everyone aboard. Takeda lures the ninjas to the rear of the train, where he expertly dispatches of them with lethal and bloody precision. Mieko joins in on the action, skillfully firing arrows into the enemy. After the battle, Racine is finally taken to the isolated island, where Takeda trains his students.
While Racine slowly recovers from his injuries, Takeda awaits the final confrontation between him and Kinjo. A feud stretching back over two centuries, when a rival clan hired the Makato to kill Takeda’s family.
Writer/Director J.F. Lawton deserves kudos for filming the action and sword-fighting clearly. The fighting scenes are not hyper-edited or shot in permanent close-up. Additionally, one has to appreciate the erotically charged atmosphere and pulse pounding Japanese drum score by composer Motofumi Yamaguchi and Kodo.
Christopher Lambert is a likeable and serviceable actor in the film, however Yoshio Harada really carries the film and give it some weight. He is a brooding and magnetic presence and is stylish with his purple handled sword, dark glasses and flowing overcoat.
If you look past its absurd plot and general craziness, The Hunted is a contemporary tale of samurai versus ninja that’s worth watching.