Manga Live
Crying Freeman
Dir: Christophe Gans
Star: Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Tchéky Karyo, Byron Mann
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1995
Format: DVD R2

Whilst enjoying a brief holiday beautiful young artist Emu O'Hara (Julie Condra) witnesses the murder of the son of a prominent Yakuza boss and his bodyguards. After despatching the Yakuza, the killer introduces himself as Yo ( Mark Dacascos) to the open mouthed and obviously enthralled Emu before promptly dissappearing. Upon returning home to Vancouver miss O'Hara is contacted by the police who have been contacted by Mr. Shimazaki the leader of a Chinese "business society" and whose son was murdered by a mysterious and legendary assassin known as the "Freeman". Nothing is known about the Freeman except for legends and myths. Convinced that the Freeman will contact or kill miss O'Hara Shimazaki approaches the police for their help in finding the Freeman. The police receive an Interpol exchange officer to help with the situation as Detective Netah (Tchéky Karyo) is an specialist in Asian crime, but he seems to have an agenda all of his own. Before the police get to question miss O'Hara, Shimazaki and his bodyguards are mercilessly shot outside the police station and the Freeman escapes before the police can give chase. After the attack outside the Police station the Freeman is sent to kill Emu, but the Freeman obviously in love with her spares Emu's life and helps her escape the country. The Yakuza and the Police are chasing them not to mention the Freeman's masters.....the "Sons of the Dragon" for his betrayal, the odds are stacked against the Freeman and Emu. The Yakuza are in the midst of a power play as everyone wants to be the boss and wants revenge for the death of Shimazaki and his son, so whoever provides the head of the Freeman becomes the new boss...... so who will get to them first?

Crying Freeman is based upon the hugely popular Manga comic and anime of the same name created by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami. Basically telling the story of Yo Hinomura who stumbles onto the secret society known as the Sons of the Dragon and is taken by them and who later discover that he is blessed as a deathwalker (ultimate assassin). Taking this as a sign they make him their "Freeman" the ultimate tool and weapon in their affairs as an assassin. Some of the Freeman’s roots are explored by way of some flashback sequences which feature one of the "elders" of the clan as she gives Yo his fantastic dragon tattoo and programs his obedience by ancient Chinese means.

Christophe Gans definately had his work cut out trying to adapt such a prominent and popular comic for the big screen but what he has produced is not too far removed from the comic or the anime. Fabulous, balletic high octane blend of high kicking martial arts, explosive action, sumtuous sword play and blistering gun battles. Slick, scintillating and stylish direction by Gans is at times very John Woo-esque. This is an impressive adaptation on the whole and the stylized violence aids in creating a good atmosphere as the viewer is treated to some fabulous photography and sterling action direction.

I did have my reservations about this film as I was a fan of the original comic and the anime of course, but to be honest I was suitably impressed as this wasn't some degenerate rubbish that convoluted the original concept. What you get is a reasonable adaptation of the story backed by a good cast, delightful direction with a good eye and some fine fight choreography. The finale just develops into a bloodbath packed with explosions, gunfire and of course martial arts...... excellent. The latter melee makes up for a slow romantic section that blurs the edges around the middle of the film.

The charismatic Mark Dacascos is perfect for the role of the Freeman. His martial arts heritage and background stand him in good stead and he even looks the part whilst managing to look photogenic and act at the same time. This isn't a particuarly good showcase for his martial art skills and far better fight scenes can be found in Drive but he deftly handles action and this a major strength for the film. The enchanting Julie Condra seems to drift through her role simply gazing and pouting at the camera to good effect and seems so at ease with her character the chemistry between her and Dacascos is electric (no surprise they got married in real life shortly after making this film). Tchéky Karyo ambles through his role as crooked cop Netah but his roles are usually much more involved and integral but here he doesn't appear to have much room to manouvere so to speak so is left with a partially developed character. More the fault of Christophe Gans than the talented Karyo who was better in Dobermann. A brief but typically charming performance from Mako as Yakuza leader Shimuzaki. Rae Dawn Chong I'm afraid I find a bit hard going, as her acting ability is somewhat negligable in my opinion and I am yet to see her in a role that requires her to do something interesting. Former asian model and "heart throb" Masaya Kato appears playing the bad guy (again) as Ryuji the vicious Yakuza boss wannabe hungry for the Freeman's blood and head. Which is not very far from the last role he had with Dacascos which was of course in Drive which saw Kato chasing Mark Dacascos in the pursuit of his head. To be honest I thought they worked better together on Drive but this doesn't have the same quality fight sequences. Reasonable performance by Yôko Shimada as Ryuji's typically scheming and manipulative wife Lady Hanada but she could have also been used a bit more to better effect.

The film starts off well and builds a great pace and momentum that grabs the viewer but just as it does so it slows right down to a crawl for a stab at a romantic angle to the story. After laying a firm foundation of action it was a pity it tailed off a little about half way through in order to explore a love story. The script also took a bit of a dive at this juncture and the dialogue became awkward and a bit corny. There are faults but most are easily overlooked due to the terrific job done by director and the excellent cast to produce a captivating action packed battle fest.


Once in a lifetime comes the perfect killer.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 4.3 Sharp fullscreen image
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Good surround sound but needs a 5.1 score
Features Dull static menu
Teaser trailer
Theatrical trailer
Small behind the scenes featurette
Various Trailers
Verdict Good picture quality even though it is only 4.3 and the sound is good but it desperately needs a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. Some extra's would have been nice or at the very least a commentary track. Good film but it needs a good disc to compliment it.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home