|Plot Outline: The Freeman (As in Free-Man) is an extremely talented assassin, kind of like a murdering McGuyver. He works for a highly elite Chinese mafia, but the thing is, he’s not exactly in control of his life. Every time he lays someone to rest, he sheds a tear for his victim. That’s what I call a gracious man. Anyway, whilst chasing down three no name yakuza thugs in the woods of Japan, he is spotted by Emu O’Hara, a beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) woman who likes to paint the scenery. The Freeman doesn’t kill her, but does remember her. Both become infatuated with the other, but when the Freeman is told to kill her, he can’t go through with it. His first ever act of defiance, but it won’t be his last. Add in a crooked cop and the mafia willing to give anything to have the Freeman dead, and you’ve got a wicked action flick!|
The Review: Let’s just get it out of the way now, I hated Brotherhood of the Wolf. I actually despised it. I don’t know exactly why I did, I suppose because I found it boring and the action that was presented was terribly lame. Men in large coats performing acrobatic martial arts? No sir, not my thing. Even with Philip Kwok doing the fight choreography in that film, I still thought it terribly sucked. If you loved that film, I don’t know what to say other than sorry but it’s my opinion. I still thought I would make it clear what I thought of Christophe Ganz’s most famous picture. I was skeptical going into Crying Freeman, but I wasn’t overly critical just because of my vehement hatred of the filmmakers most popular work, and after sitting through it, I have to say I’m surprised at how much I liked it. It’s not a ‘great’ film, but as I’ve stressed countless times, sometimes a film just has to be entertaining. Crying Freeman is a prime example. While watching the film I couldn’t help but notice the MANY plot holes and inconsistencies, but this isn’t the type of film that should be held under a microscope. It’s only here to entertain, so just shut off the analytical portion of your brain and just marvel at the action scenes, be in awe of how hot Julie Condra is and wonder why it is that Hollywood hasn’t caught on to the fact that Mark Dacascos has just as much star potential as Jet Li, and thirty times as much as the donut munching Steven Seagal.
The action scenes leave me a bit perplexed. Part of me thinks that the gun fights are great and would do John Woo proud, but then part of me looks at it as glorified plagiarism. Ganz apes John Woo’s style throughout the film, to the point where I was almost rolling my eyes during some portions. The least thing that can be said on his part is that he interjects his own style enough in the film so that it doesn’t feel completely like a total ripoff. The Matrix did it, I’m no fool, but at least The Matrix had the wire work that crossed different boundaries. Ganz just seems like he’s been watching A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled far too much. This is all groundless though, just because John Woo perfected the style doesn’t mean he’s the only one allowed to do so. The action here, and there’s really not that much so don’t get your hopes up, feels like the cartoon version of Woo. Considering how animated Woo’s films are, that’s quite the statement. Dacascos flips and rolls on the ground relentlessly, always firing his gun, and almost always hitting his target. He’s always confident and his character is almost always on the money. It can either annoy you that his character is basically flawless (and I’m talking about technically doing his job, not emotionally), or it’ll just make you say ‘cooool’. His acting on the other hand is far from perfect. I’m sure in time he’ll grow into his craft, as all action stars eventually do, but what is displayed here I hope won’t be considered his best work. I think Dacascos just seems too much like a baby face. He has no commanding voice, no gruff. He just sounds like an average guy, maybe even with a tiny voice. The first thing I would say he needs to do is get down the voice. I’m not exactly saying he should mimic Eastwood, but a little Clint in the voice wouldn’t do him too much harm.
The rest of the cast don’t do much better, but if you look at the heart of what the film is, it’s just a b-movie. Now, before the fans of the film (does it have any?) try and torture me, a B-Movie doesn’t necessarily mean anything negative. Some of my favorite films are B’s. To tell the honest truth, the film struck me as if it were something that would be made-for-video, and considering I usually hate straight-to-video action flicks, I would say Ganz did a great job with what he had. The film was obviously shot on a limited budget, but there are moments where you can’t even tell. The most apparent moments are the scenes in Japan near the end, the stagey sets become obvious but didn’t take me out of the film very much. Truly, the only two things that took me out of the film and made me look at it objectively was the acting and the story. I’ve covered the acting already, pretty much everyone embarrassed themselves at least once, but I haven’t gotten much into the plot. During the film I had so many questions that were never answered that it almost became frustrating. Thankfully I knew beforehand that the film was based upon a manga, or else I might have really became upset. When watching a film based upon manga though, anime or live action, I find it easier to look over the gaping holes. Why? Because rarely do you see a manga based film that is able to be adapted to the screen without losing so much content that it becomes nothing but a shadow of what it was. Just read the manga for Akira and then Watch the anime. The anime was basically incoherent to me when I watched it, then I read the book and it became clear… and I still didn’t like it. Regardless, manga based films never get the treatment novels do. You would think it would be easier considering the imagery of a manga, but for some reason it seems harder. In conclusion (yes, I’m that pretentious!): it’s got holes, and if you can’t look over them and you need films to be whole, what are you doing watching a live action manga?
Now, I’m giving the film a four. This may seem insane to some, but the film was just so easy to watch, I couldn’t help but love every minute of it. It’s not high art, it’s not exactly a work of pure originality and it’s definitely not to be judged on the same principals as something like American Beauty. The safer bet would be to rate this a three, and for your average B-Movie fan, I would probably say that’s what it’s deserving of. My own personal opinion is what the site is about though, and a four is what came to me instinctively. Like it or lump it, I thought it was a ton of fun.