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Film / The Hunted (1995)

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The Hunted is a 1995 martial-arts thriller film written and directed by J.F. Lawton in his mainsteam directorial debut. It stars Christopher Lambert as Paul Racine, an American businessman travelling in Nagoya, Japan who accidentally stumbles upon a Ninja Cult, and becomes part of their hit list following him witnessing their leader Kinjo's face during the assassination of a woman that Racine met the previous night (played by Joan Chen).

Not to be confused with the 2003 film of the same name.

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Tropes:

  • Advertised Extra: Joan Chen's character, Kirina, receives third billing and is featured on several of the movie's posters. However, only 10 or so minutes into the film, she's beheaded by Kinjo.
  • Affably Evil: Kinjo. While the leader of a ruthless ninja clan, he is polite to Kirina just as he's about to kill her. He even honors her Last Request to see his face.
  • Anti-Villain: Kinjo. While he is the ruthless leader of a ninja clan, killing his minions for their failures, and is responsible for the deaths of several police officers, he is also shown to be raked with guilt over killing Kirina, not willing to harm innocents such as sparing the mistress of the Yakuza boss who wanted Kirina dead, and even honors the Dying Wish of Kirina to show his face to her.
  • Audience Surrogate: Racine, as he, like the audience, are mere witness to a centuries-long feud between a Samurai and Ninja clan, and have zero background on the events surrounding it.
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  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Kinjo and Ijuro, who are the leaders of their respective clans, and are more than capable of holding their own against the Red Shirts and mooks that they throw at one another late in the film.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Makato clan have no problems with killing anyone who stand in their way.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: One of the specialties of the Makato clan. They can easily blend in and pose as janitors or staff onboard a train until they're close to their target.
  • Big Bad: Kinjo, leader of the Makato ninja clan.
  • Big "NO!": Racine screams this during his attempt to save Kirina from execution by the ninjas.
  • Character Development: While initially clueless and fearing for his life, Racine, through training from the Takeda clan, eventually becomes confident and competent enough to know how to at least defend himself from attack. When he encounters Kinjo late in the film, he manages to fight toe-to-toe with the Ninja clan leader.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Played straight and subverted with the revolver given to Racine by the Japanese inspector. It saves his life during the hospital attack when he shoots one of the Makato ninjas about to slice him. During the train fight, however, before he can use it, Ijuro knocks the gun out of his hand and throws it out of the window, due to wanting to take the Makato down fair and square.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Played straight. The more ninjas there are sent to attack Racine, the more they tend to slip up when faced with opposition that can actually fight them equally.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: Ninjas vs Samurai.
  • Cult: The Makato clan is said to kidnap children from neighboring villages, and train them to become assassins from a very young age.
  • Determinator: The Makato clan members will never, ever, stop pursuing Racine until he is dead, or they die trying.
    • Ijuro himself, as Mieko states, "will not lose" even in the face of being outnumbered and injured.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Just as Kinjo manages to fatally wound Ijuro during the Final Battle, the latter manages to impale him in the leg, which would have serious repercussions for the ninja clan leader just as the now fully recovered Racine arrives to fight him.
  • The Dragon: Junko to Kinjo, who also happens to be his lover.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kinjo, an assassin with possibly hundreds of successful assassinations under his belt, is utterly disgusted by the petty reasons that the Yakuza boss who hired him had for wanting Kirina killed.
  • Evil Is Petty: Not Kinjo nor the Makato clan, but instead Nemura, the Yakuza boss who ordered Kirina killed just because she left him after years of servitude.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Kirina, when faced with the Makato ninjas, rather than beg for her life or run, chooses simply to face her executioners calmly and accept her fate.
  • He Knows Too Much: Racine, who witnesses Kinjo without his hood, is targeted by the latter and the rest of his clan for seeing his face and witnessing them execute Kirina.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Ijuro throws away Racine's gun just as the latter is about to shoot one of the ninjas targeting Mieko, preferring to fight them fair and square, as well as believing that the final ninja standing was Kinjo.
    • Both Ijuro and Kinjo end up getting killed thanks in part to their beliefs as well as pride, when they both refuse to throw in the towel and insist on fighting one-on-one and finishing off their enemies up close, respectively.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight. The little girl who helps Racine escape the casino in Nagoya manages to escape with her life, after he pays the taxi driver to bring her home safely, thus preventing her from getting involved with the Makato ninjas further.
  • It's Personal: After the train attack leaves his second-in-command, and lover, dead, Kinjo becomes even more motivated to kill Racine and the Takeda clan.
  • Just Train Wrong: At Nagoya Station, the Shinkansen that Racine and the Takedas board is shown to be Series 100 train. However, during the middle of the train attack, the model suddely changes to the newer Series 300, before changing a third time into an older Series 0 train upon arriving at Nara station.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Ijuro's last action just as Kinjo fatally wounds him, is to impale Kinjo's leg with his sword, before finally dying.
  • Leave No Witnesses: The Makato eventually resort to this during their attack on the train. Kinjo himself makes it his MO that no one should ever witness his face, which unfortunately Racine sees briefly during the start.
  • Living Macguffin: Racine, especially in the eyes of Ijuro, is this. He becomes central to the plot of the film thanks to seeing Kinjo's face, something the ninja leader clearly does not want, and something that Ijuro hopes to use to lure his Arch-Enemy out and finally end the centuries long-feud between their clans.
  • Ninja: The Makato clan, who are trained to be these since childhood.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Zig Zagged Trope for the Makato clan. One on hand, Kinjo and his minions refuse to kill anyone who isn't Racine during the casino chase, but this allows their target to get away unharmed. Junko, however, is perfectly fine with killing innocents if it means ensuring Racine is dead, so she and her minions slaughter several people on the train trying to look for him.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After destroying the ninja leader's prized sword, Racine fights and beats up Kinjo in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Non-Action Guy: Racine starts out as one. Where he ends up is a different story.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Just before Racine can shoot the last ninja during the train fight, Ijuro knocks the gun out of his hand, so that he can have the chance to kill who he thinks is Kinjo, himself.
  • Pride: Both Ijuro's and Kinjo's pride as warriors prove to be their downfall, when Ijuro, instead of calling for backup, is killed by Kinjo in a one-on-one sword fight. The latter, meanwhile, wanting to finish off both Ijuro and Racine for personal reasons, is killed thanks to this, as he gets severely injured by a dying Ijuro in the leg, and is finished off by the now-recovered Racine.
    • In addition, Ijuro's pride as a warrior also indirectly results in the Makato's rampage on the train, resulting the deaths of dozens of innocents, all so he could lure Kinjo out.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Japanese police, who all go down like punks to the Makato during the hospital attack.
    • Most of the Takeda clan as well, once the Makato attack their island stronghold.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Final Battle becomes this for Kinjo, as he's doing it in order to avenge his fallen lover.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The ninjas, armed with swords, shurikens, and bows and arrows, manage to wipe out police officers armed with handguns and submachine-guns during the hospital attack.
  • Safety in Muggles: Racine uses this method to escape the Makato pursuing him the first time. This later forces the next group of assassins under Junko to Leave No Witnesses when they attack the train he and the Takedas are on.
  • Samurai: The Takeda clan.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Kirina. While she is killed early in the film, her death pretty much drives the plot of the rest of the film.
    • Her execution by Kinjo causes Racine to be targeted by the Makato clan for seeing Kinjo's face.
    • This same attack also makes Ijuro realize that Racine can bring Kinjo to him, because He Knows Too Much.
    • Kinjo's guilt over killing her drives part of his later actions in the film.
  • Stealth Expert: One of the expertise of the Makato ninja clan is being able to sneak into even the most heavily-guarded of places without alerting anyone, silently killing their target, and then slipping away before an alert can be made. Best demonstrated during the hospital and train scenes.
  • Tempting Fate: The Japanese Police Inspector tells Racine just prior to the hospital attack that there are no ninja cults in modern Japan, and that he's safe and guarded by well-armed police officers. Now guess what happens not too long after...
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Racine calls out Ijiro when he discovered that it was him who lured Kinjo to the train and had dozens of innocent people killed as a result.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Played with.The Japanese police think that the assassination on Kirina was by a Yakuza syndicate, not by a group of ninjas. Which isn't entirely wrong, as it was a Yakuza boss who paid Kinjo to kill her in the first place.
  • Yakuza: The ones who paid Kinjo to kill Kirina in the first place.
  • You Have Failed Me: Kinjo kills two of his mooks who failed to kill Racine following their execution of Kirina.
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