Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I have been trying to see this movie for years.  The ‘Crying Freeman’ anime is kind of special to me in that it’s the fist anime I ever saw really.  I mean of course I had seen Speed Racer and Voltron and the likes when I was kid but I never knew them to be the anime series that they were.  Nope, ‘Crying Freeman’ was the first anime that I made a conscious effort to seek out and watch way back in 1988, based on the recommendation of a friend of mine and I loved it.  I actually dusted off my VHS copy to watch it again, and as is often the case, I now realize how nonsensical and stupid the story of Yo Hinomura is, but it still holds a special place in my heart.  Then one day this dude I work with tells me that there was a live action movie of ‘Crying Freeman made way back in 1995 which totally floored me.  A.  How come I’ve never heard of such of thing, and B. and most importantly how come I don’t own a copy?  No problem, I’ll just get online and order me a copy from Amazon or Deep Discount or somewhere, but would you believe that this film never received American distribution?  Oh the humanity!  So I’m screwed.  At least I was until last week, when by means that must remain top secret I managed to acquire a copy of the French made live action film ‘Crying Freeman’, a full twelve years after it was released to theaters in Europe.  Just so you know, there is probably nothing that is worth a twelve year wait, even though I only heard about the damn thing a year ago, but this wasn’t half bad.

Purist rejoice as this is about as faithful a rendition of any comic, or manga adaptation brought to film as any I have ever seen.  But remember, I did say upon rewatching Freeman that the base story is pretty stupid.  This nonsense transfers flawlessly to the live action version as well.

Julie Condra is Emu O’hara, an extremely somber, depressed young woman who is visiting San Francisco to paint the country side when she is surprised by a group of men being relentlessly pursued by the contract killer of the Sons of the Dragon mob outfit known as Freeman (Marc Dacascos).  As these men quickly find out, when Freeman wants you dead, your pretty much dead.  Emu witnesses the whole violent affair and Freeman even goes so far as to introduce himself to the pretty lady, then disappears.  Back in Emu’s hometown of Vancouver B.C. the police are aware of her witnessing of this crime, and are holding court with the father of the slain man, Yakuza boss Shimazaki (the recently departed Mako) who request that police use Emu as bait so that they can finally catch and be rid of the Freeman.  Freeman and his friend and partner Koh (Bryron Mann) are in Vancouver as well to first kill Shimazaki and next to eliminate Emu as she can identify the Freeman.  Emu though has been walking around in a funk for the last twenty or so years as she blames herself (rightfully so) for her fathers death and is pleased that the Freeman is coming to end her miserable life.  Freeman shows up as promised, but a funny thing happens right before he kills this woman, they have sex.  Freeman is like ‘whoa, that’s cool' and Emu is thinking, after finally getting some, that maybe she should rethink this whole death thing.  The reasons they decided to merge is never explained in the movie, but it is in the anime though.  Anyway, after they finish up the lovin’ a nasty bunch of Yakuza hitmen led by the evil Boss Hanada (Masaya Kato) bust in the house and start blasting.  They miss the Freeman who dispatches with the hitmen, but they do manage to strike the defenseless Emu.  Freeman decides to save the woman, though his partner Koh vehemently protests against this.

One thing leads to another as Emu survives and flies to Japan to be close to her new lover, but the Yakuza are fed up with Freeman and his bosses and start killing Chinese left and right.  Freeman is now setup for a showdown against the evil Yakuza and must eventually make the decision between his new found love and his duty to the Sons of the Dragon.

Like I said, this is an extremely faithful adaptation of the anime, so much so that some of the scenes from the anime had to have served as storyboards for the live action.  Some of the comments I have read regarding this live action version is that it just doesn’t make any sense.  By in large these comments come from people who haven’t seen the anime.  That’s not to say that watching the anime will make the live action any clearer, but one at least understands what is happening, if not why it is happening.  I for one have never thought the birth of Yo Hinamura as the Freeman was particularly satisfying, and a lot of the story I found to be disjointed and confusing.  But again, director Christophe Gans held tightly to the original story and personally I’m glad he did.  I’ve seen enough of these things to know that any changes made probably wouldn’t have been for the better.

Marc Dacoscas has certainly grown as actor over the years, as he was fairly wooden, but extremely athletic in his role as the Freeman and Julie Condra is a cute as she can be, though equally wooden as Emu.  Apparently so smitten Dacoscas was with the cuteness of the woman the he married her and now they have a house full of children.  Tcheky Karyo does his usual solid work as the police officer playing both sides to the middle, and I particularly liked Byron Mann as the cool as ice Koh.  The action shot by Gans was stellar with plenty of nice gunplay and blood spray, though the film probably could have used more of it, and overall this was a very entertaining movie.

The burning question that I have, considering the amazing load of crap that gets dumped into video stores, is why this film has never been released stateside.  I’m sure there’s a valid reason and I’d like to know what it is.  They could have made like eight of these between Ms. Condra’s pregnancies if they had released this title stateside.  Oh well, if you’re reading this and you really want to see this movie, drop me and e-mail and I may be able to make it available to you, but oh is it going cost.  Just leave your front door unlocked when you’re off to work and we’ll call it even.

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