The Hunted opens with a quote from Daidoji Yuzan describing how a samurai must constantly keep in mind that he has to die. I hope Ryu Hayabusa is contemplating that advice right now.
A far cry from playing the Scottish immortal of Highlander, Christopher Lambert plays Paul Racine, a boring businessman in Nagoya for work. After closing a business deal, he’s charmed by sexy-as-hell Kirina at their hotel bar, and the two share an early evening of hot tub loving before she sends him on his way.
Once he leaves, a group of ninja assassins slip into Kirina’s hotel room. Kinjo, the lead ninja, promises to kill her as painlessly as possible, but she insists on seeing his face before he does it. I don’t personally take last requests, though I do accept begging, pleading and weeping.
I do have to give Kirina some credit, though. She asks to die slowly and painfully, so she can remember what it was to be alive. Kinjo apologizes, but she tells him that he should be sorry for himself and that he’s both a coward and a slave. She’s right on the money there; I couldn’t have described Hayabusa better myself.
Meanwhile, Paul realizes he took her room key by accident. Shockingly, his attempt to stop the ninjas by yelling “Noooo!” in slow motion fails to prevent Kinjo from decapitating Kirina.
Paul awakens in the hospital – having somehow survived being stabbed, having this throat slashed, and being hit by a poisoned shuriken – to find master swordsman Takeda and his wife by his bedside. They tell him he is in danger, since he’s the only man to have seen Kinjo’s face.
Naturally, Paul wonders how he can be alive. Mrs. Takeda’s responds: “Saru mo ki kara ochiru.” (“Even monkeys fall out of trees.”) That about sums up Ryu’s luck in taking my arm and eye the last time we met.
Kinjo is one paranoid bastard. He says Paul has stolen a piece of his soul and that his men betrayed him by failing to kill Paul. Kinjo offers them the chance to kill what’s left of him (now that they’ve let Paul get away with his soul) but they wuss out and fall to their knees. He gut stabs one and promises to let him die slowly, burying him up to his neck and leaving him to rot in the sun. Hm… not a bad idea.
Kinjo sends his best men to the hospital disguised as janitors. They take out the cops staked out across the street with brutal efficiency and plant an arrow through the detective’s throat. Knocking out the power to the building, they cut down the remaining police with ease under the cover of darkness. Paul escapes amid the carnage and phones Takeda, arranging to meet him at the train station.
On the train, Kinjo’s men (disguised as very serious golfers) take out the conductors. Takeda anticipates that the ninjas will start at the front of the train and work back. Like a badass, Takeda insists he’ll hold them there.
The ninjas start massacring pretty much every damn passenger on the way to the back to send a message. They do pretty well against unarmed civilians until they meet Takeda, who kicks their asses. Kinjo’s special lady thinks she can take on Takeda 1-on-1. He puts her in her place pretty quickly. Props to her, though — she cuts off her own face rather than have anyone look upon her in death.
After the train battle, Paul and the Takedas make their way to a private island. Paul learns that Takeda’s clan was once nearly wiped out by Kinjo’s Makato ninja cult. While holed up (like cowards!), Paul starts to train under the wacky drunk swordsmith.
Ugh, a training montage. Paul learns to wield a katana. Poorly.
Paul insists he has more to learn from Takeda. He confronts Takeda with the knowledge that Takeda let Kinjo find out that Paul was on the train “to test his skill.” And, more damningly, anticipates that Takeda will eventually tell Kinjo that Paul is on the island to lure him there. Takeda keeps resisting the urge to kill Paul for this disrespect (a whole hell of a lot longer than I would have).
It’s no surprise then that Takeda offers Paul up to Kinjo if he can emerge victorious in one-on-one combat. Kinjo fakes being a messenger and begs Takeda to spare him while his ninjas get in position to wipe out Takeda’s disciples.
With his disciples gone and most of Kinjo’s men defeated in the fighting. Takeda challenges Kinjo, but is betrayed as the last two ninjas restrain him.
“I don’t fight for honor. I fight to win,” says Kinjo. That’s what I’m talking about!
Takeda manages to get free and the fight is on. It’s only when Takeda’s sword is broken that Kinjo lands a killing strike, though Takeda a does manage to skewer Kinjo’s leg before dying.
Kinjo hesitates in killing Takeda’s wife, reminded of Kirina’s brave acceptance of death, and Paul arrives in the nick of time to get a cheap shot in that forces Kinjo to switch to his left hand.
Paul then manages to collapse wooden scaffolding on Kinjo, but Kinjo rises again and they go hand to hand. The dude’s got spirit. And, more importantly, hidden shuriken. He plugs Paul with one, but as he readies another, Takeda’s wife tosses Paul a katana and Paul finally decapitates Kinjo.
The ninjas didn’t suck. The action was a little clunky, but bloody and brutal. I’m going to go ahead and say The Hunted is the least shitty ninja movie I’ve seen so far.