Wednesday, 2 June 2010
CRYING FREEMAN (1995)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Screenplay: Christophe Gans & Thierry Cazals
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Julie Chondra, Rae Dawn Chong, Byron Mann, Masaya Kato, Yoko Shimada, Mako & Tcheky Karyo
Before he made the really rather awesome French period, martial arts, monster movie Brotherhood of the Wolf and the almost equally awesome video game adaptation Silent Hill, French director Christophe Gans made a striking feature length debut with the very underrated, Crying Freeman. Based on the long running Japanese Manga of the same name its style, execution and sometimes graphic ultra violence may not be to everyone’s taste but Gans’ film is a striking and stylish action picture and one of the better attempts to transfer an adult themed comic book to the big screen.
Mark Dacascos gets one of his best big screen roles (he also went on to star in Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf) as Yo, the Crying Freeman of the title: an elite assassin for an ancient and shadowy organization who sheds a tear each time he kills. He is seen by an artist Emu (Chondra) conducting his latest kill. Thus she is marked for death by the Freeman but the two find they are lost souls in a violent world and instead of killing her, Yo lets her live and sees a life beyond murder and death. Yo sets in motion a chain of events to free himself from his violent life, destroy the Yakuza families gunning for him and live a new and peaceful life with Emu.
Standard set-up that is livened up by a twisty turny plot that also takes in feuding gangster families, an ancient and almost supernatural society of assassin handlers, corrupt cops and a vicious woman vying for control of the Yakuza. The bad guys are certainly fleshed out for a change getting as much screen time as the hero meaning everyone’s fate is in the hands of the Freeman come the finale. Great characters backed up by an impressive cast who get to strut their stuff and slice there way through a violently rendered comic book world. The dialogue may be a little stilted and clichéd ridden, delivered a little too po-faced on occasion, but this is the world of the comic book a world we are no doubt in. Gans skilfully brings Manga to the live action big screen, working with a modest budget and well before the days of CGI. Dacascos shines and has great adversaries in the likes of Masaya Kato and Yoko Shimda as the bloodthirsty Yakuza.
Gans proves a deft hand at the bloody set-pieces as well; Crying Freeman being packed with bullet riddled action sequences. He may overdose on the slo-mo a little too much but the action is often violently realized, skilfully choreographed and adds thrilling momentum to proceedings. Dacascos excels in the action scenes not least in a late third act sword fight but the standout is a gun blast laden set-piece in the Yakuza stronghold where Yo and his fellow assassin infiltrate the compound and surprise the Yakuza in fiery, violent fashion. Gans orchestrates the mayhem with aplomb, living up to the ultra violent nature of the Manga.
Now Crying Freeman may be an acquired taste for some. Not just a straight action film but as much about style, emotion and backstabbing characters, the film tells its story in a unique way. Gans was obviously trying out his style and technique (something which he has perfected with Brotherhood of the Wolf and Silent Hill) but Crying Freeman is still an impressive attempt at turning Manga to live action. It may have dated a little since its mid 90s release, Tcheky Karyo is for some reason bizarrely dubbed and it perhaps takes itself a little too seriously on occasion, yet there is no doubt this is a visually striking, brutally rendered action film that pulls no punches.