The Hunted (1995)

The Hunted (1995)- * *1\2

Directed by: J.F. Lawton

Starring: Christopher Lambert, John Lone and  Joan Chen,

Paul Racine (Lambert) is a New York businessman on a business trip to Tokyo. After getting involved with the beautiful Kirina (Chen), he finds himself inadvertently drawn into the shadowy world of Ninjas. When he tries to stop her murder, it’s “Businessman to the rescue!” but he doesn’t realize what he’s up against. None of the Tokyo authorities believe Ninjas still exist in modern-day Japan. Obviously they’re not aware of the highly-trained, yet evil Kinjo (Lone) who now takes Paul as his main enemy because he knows too much. So Paul trains in the ways of the Ninja to face off in the eventual final confrontation with Kinjo. Who will win?

The Hunted comes from a not-so-distant past when Christopher Lambert movies came to the movie theater. And ones about Ninjas no less. Ah yes, it was a different time in our nation’s history indeed. Part of the interest of a Christopher Lambert movie is attempting to decipher and determine if it’s a Christopher Lambert movie or a Christopher Lambair film. The jury may still be out on The Hunted, because it is a fairly glossy, professionally made product with an almost two-hour running time and a pretty slow pace by today’s standards. But because it’s a movie about Ninjas with a lot of “Sword Violence”, it’s probably an “Ert” title, not an “Air” film.

We give the movie credit for the fact that when the Japanese locals talk, it’s in Japanese with subtitles. So many movies have locals in foreign countries speaking English to each other. Speaking of voices, Lambert’s is kind of odd. It’s accented, of course, but the real problem is that it’s a bit thin and quiet to boot. With a more powerful voice, his screen presence could have been improved.  When The Hunted is at its best is when it’s executing its action setpieces, and the scene on the train is a movie highlight. But on the whole the movie seems bloated, and some trimming could have helped. Plus the movie takes itself so seriously. During the Ninja scenes in the woods, it made us miss Godfrey Ho and the fact that Ho’s Ninjas have headbands that say “Ninja” on them. Well, maybe they don’t have to be that silly, but a happy medium would be nice.

We appreciate the professionalism and the obvious care that was put into the action/stunt sequences of The Hunted, but the hard fact is that this is not an essential movie. You could probably miss this one and not feel too bad about it. But if you do see it, you’ll see a competently-made and pretty slick time-filler.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Arena (2011)

 Arena (2011)- *1\2

Directed by: Jonah Loop

Starring: Kellan Lutz, Samuel L. Jackson, Katia Winter, Daniel Dae Kim, Johnny Messner, Nina Dobrev, and James Remar

A mysterious, underground fight promoter known only as Logan (Jackson) stages "Deathgames" in which combatants fight to the death. These bloody mano-a-mano brawls are broadcast over the internet and apparently everyone from office workers in Hong Kong to unlikable and annoying frat boys in America find Logan's product wildly appealing. When one of Logan's workers named Milla (Winter) kidnaps ex-Marine and current paramedic David Lord (Lutz) and forces him to fight for his freedom, at first Lord resists. But then Logan offers the deal that if Lord wins ten deathfights to the death, he can go, and not die. Meanwhile, he's kept in a cell far from the prying eyes of the outside world. It's there he befriends Taiga (Dae Kim), who is in a similar situation as him, but his final match will be against an executioner-type-guy known as Kaden (Messner). Will David Lord be the Lord of the underground internet deathfight circuit?

Arena starts off on a bad foot right from the get-go and never recovers. It's almost like an athlete who's so pumped up that he got the ball, he fumbles immediately, and feels so much pressure to recover and make up time, he sabotages himself and can never really keep up. Right in the first few minutes, we're subjected to CGI-based fights, super-irritating frat characters that we only see from one angle as they watch their precious deathfights, and we discover, to our dismay, that our main hero, the guy we're all supposed to get behind, is a man named Kellan Lutz. Or  possibly Kip Pardue, we're not really sure. Be it Kip, Kellan or Kaden, whatever, you know how it's said that couples that have been together a long time start to resemble each other, or in longtime human-pet relationships, the two start to look alike? Well, it's pretty clear Mr. Lutz has been admiring the Ryan Phillippe poster over his bed for a bit too long. If there's anyone out there who has seen every Ryan Phillippe movie ever made, it's him. While modeling your acting style and career on Ryan Phillippe might not be the world's best decision, if his goal was to be indistinguishable from him, he achieved it.

The massive vacuum where a scintilla of originality might have lived is one of the more glaring problems here. This is just another stupid, mindless fighting movie that adds nothing to an already-crowded marketplace. It's filled with cliche-ridden dialogue and plot developments. Its lack of originality is even evident in its title. There are already multiple movies that exist called Arena, but apparently that didn't bother anyone involved. It's almost like they were trying to telegraph this movie's superfluity to any potential renters. (God forbid there be buyers). Okay, we don't expect total originality here, or anywhere, really, but honestly. The only dialogue we liked was the fact that the name "David Lord" was said like a thousand times throughout the course of the movie. It became funny, in a Malone or Brakus kind of way. If that's the name you're super-proud of, and not much else, there's a problem.

OK, we know what you're thinking, because we were thinking it too: why in God's name is Samuel L. Jackson in this piece of crud? The only answer we can come up with is that he's a professional actor, and he likes to work. In Arena, he's a Black guy with a large underground command center, just like Keith David in Executive Target (1997). But this movie is just a knockoff of Gamer (2009) and Fatal Combat (1995) in just about every respect, so as noted previously, originality was clearly one of the first things on the executioner's chopping block. Speaking of which, Kaden as the executioner character, rather than be intimidating, is far more reminiscent of early-2000's game show character The Quizmaster from the show Inquisition. You think at any moment he's going to ask David Lord to recite the names of the Great Lakes.

 So we covered the childish, derivative dialogue and plot (a character even says "finish him" at one point, clearly ripping off Mortal Kombat), but the movie never explains why they put so much time and effort into getting this random guy, David Lord, to fight. Then they put him in a cell with a bunch of annoying lights and sounds, meant to break down his spirit. It ended up having the same effect on the audience. Then the brainless frat boys use their iPads and iPhones to bet on the fights. And did we mention Kellan is shirtless for about 90% of the movie? But we always try to see the positive, so on that score we applaud the fact that you can actually see most of the fights and there aren't a ton of eye-singing quick-cuts. But on the whole this movie is lame. It would have helped if they got someone good to be the hero, like a Dolph, Scott Adkins or Gary Daniels, but even if they touched Arena with a ten foot fighting pole, it would still be what it essentially is, sadly enough.

The important thing to remember is that Kellan Lutz is not, we repeat, not Ryan Phillippe. Aside from that, Arena embodies almost everything that's bad about modern-day DTV "action" movies.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty