Crying Freeman (film)
International theatrical poster
|Directed by||Christophe Gans|
|Produced by||Samuel Hadida
|Written by||Christophe Gans
Roger Avary (uncredited)
Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik (uncredited)
Rae Dawn Chong
|Narrated by||Julie Condra|
|Music by||Patrick O'Hearn|
|Distributed by||Metropolitan Filmexport|
|Release date(s)||September 14, 1995|
|Running time||102 minutes|
Crying Freeman is a 1995 Canadian and French produced action film, directed by Christophe Gans, based on the "Portrait of a Killer" arc of the best-selling manga of the same name by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami. The film was shot in British Columbia in October 1994.
One morning, while painting the landscape on a hill in San Francisco, California, a young woman named Emu O'Hara (Julie Condra) witnesses the murder of a Japanese Yakuza member. She notices that while the assassin stands emotionless in front of her, his eyes begin to shed tears. The assassin introduces himself to Emu as "Yo" (Mark Dacascos).
Days later, after Emu returns to her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the Hakushin Society led by Shido Shimazaki (Mako) make their appearance at the local police precinct, announcing a war between his clan and the "Sons of the Dragons" - a Chinese Triad that ordered the assassination of Shimazaki's son in San Francisco. Interpol detective Netah (Tchéky Karyo) explains to the police that the Sons of the Dragons are descendants of 108 Buddhist monks who rebelled against the Manchu reign in China centuries ago, and that they have their bringer of death known in the underworld as the "Freeman." Shimazaki then tells everyone that Emu is the Freeman's next target, as she was the only witness to his son's assassination, and the assassin's code is that a person who is given Freeman's name becomes his next kill. However, shortly after their meeting is adjourned, Shimazaki and his bodyguards are ambushed outside the precinct by a masked Freeman and his assistant Koh (Byron Mann) (sniping from the top of a nearby building). After dispatching the bodyguards and disabling the nearby police officers, Freeman successfully kills Shimazaki before running off. During his escape, he passes by Emu, who recognizes his eyes through his mask. As Freeman and Koh flee the scene, Emu utters Yo's name to the surprise of Detective Forge (Rae Dawn Chong), who is assigned to protect her.
Later that night, Emu is interrogated by Netah and Forge over Freeman's identity. Due to a lack of evidence, she is shortly released and escorted back to her mansion. As Netah scouts the mansion's perimeters, he discovers that Forge is knocked unconscious and he encounters Ryuji Hanada (Masaya Kato) and wife Kimie Hanada (Yoko Shimada), who are out to claim the Freeman's head and take over the Hakushin Society. Inside the mansion, Emu discovers that Yo is in her room and begins to accept her fate. Yo, however, decides not to kill her and instead, makes love with her. Minutes later, Hanada's men enter the mansion, prompting Yo to immediately kill them before Ryuji confronts him. Koh throws a knife at Ryuji's back and a gun towards Yo. As Yo guns Ryuji down, Ryuji fires his machine pistol out of control, severely wounding Emu. Despite his orders, Yo cannot bring himself to kill Emu; instead, he has Koh drive them to the nearest hospital. En route, Yo tells Emu his last name being Hinomura, and to find him in Hokkaidō, Japan. It is later on revealed that Ryuji survived the gunfight by wearing a bulletproof vest.
With the help of members of the Sons of the Dragons (and at the cost of Detective Forge's life), Emu escapes police security at the hospital and flies to Japan to reunite with Yo. Yo tells Emu about his past before becoming the Freeman. He was a renowned pottery artist who had an exhibition in New York. During the exhibit, someone was murdered by two unknown assailants. He realized that the murder victim placed a roll of film inside one of his vases several seconds prior to his death. Yo developed the photos in his hotel bathroom, revealing the torture and execution of a man wearing dragon tattoos similar to what he would eventually wear. Before leaving his hotel, he was drugged and abducted by the Sons of the Dragons, who implanted subliminal messages into his mind using acupuncture techniques. During his first mission, where he killed Mafia boss Antonio Rossi, he began to shed tears; hence his name Crying Freeman.
Yo is notified by Koh that Ryuji and his men have attacked a soya factory in Shanghai, China, that was protected by the Sons of the Dragons. As retribution, Yo and Koh travel to Shimazaki's funeral outside Tokyo to kill Ryuji and wipe out the Shimazaki clan. During the funeral, while having sex inside a closet, Kimie reveals to Netah that the Shimazakis were set up by the Hanadas to be assassinated so they could take over the clan. Disguised as Yakuza members recently released from prison, Yo and Koh begin their killing spree on the Yakuza clan. After incapacitating Ryuji by impaling his hand on a wall, Koh tells Yo to make an escape route while he deals with Ryuji personally by dropping an explosive in his pants. While Yo makes his escape, Koh attempts to kill him, only to be gunned down by Ryuji before the explosive destroys him and the house. A dying Koh tells Yo that he was ordered by the Sons of the Dragons to kill him for treason. A vengeful Kimie shoots Koh to death following Freeman's escape.
Yo returns to his home, where he prepares the area to self-destruct and arms himself to battle Netah and Kimie, along with her henchmen. Despite being wounded by Netah, Yo kills the henchmen and defeats Netah and Kimie - the latter by stabbing her near the heart. Yo then gives them an alibi that he killed Shimazaki on a personal feud and that he and Emu committed suicide. When Kimie refuses to accept the alibi on grounds of her husband's death, Yo pulls the knife off her chest, increasing her blood loss. Kimie then accepts the alibi and has her wound mended. While Yo and Emu leave the premises, Netah prepares to shoot them from behind, only to be killed by Kimie. Yo and Emu are last seen riding a speedboat into the sunset.
- Mark Dacascos as Yo Hinomura/Crying Freeman, a skilled assassin who sheds tears for every target he kills.
- Julie Condra as Emu O'Hara, a woman who witnesses a murder committed by Freeman and eventually becomes his lover.
- Tchéky Karyo as Detective Netah, an Interpol agent assigned to assist Vancouver police in protecting Emu from the Freeman.
- Byron Mann as Koh, Freeman's partner.
- Masaya Kato as Ryuji "The Blade" Hanada, Shimazaki's right-hand man until Shimazaki's death makes him leader of the Hakushin Society.
- Yoko Shimada as Kimie Hanada, Ryuji's wife who has an extramarital affair with Netah.
- Rae Dawn Chong as Detective Forge, a Vancouver detective partnered with Netah.
- Mako as Shido Shimazaki, leader of the Hakushin Society until his death at the hands of the Freeman.
Differences from the manga
The film displays several deviations from the manga's storyline. Most notable in these changes is Emu, the female lead character. In the manga, she was a Japanese woman named Emu Hino; for the film, she was changed to a caucasian woman named Emu O'Hara (possibly named after Scarlett O'Hara). Detective Nitta from the manga was also changed to the caucasian Netah. While the original story took place solely in Japan, the film was shot in British Columbia, Canada, with some parts of the region as stand-ins for San Francisco and Japan.
The 108 Dragons - Freeman's crime organization - was changed to the Sons of the Dragons. In addition, while the manga portrays Freeman as an indispensable member of the 108 Dragons, the Sons of the Dragons in the film consider Freeman as an expendable unit, as Yo sees pictures of the execution of a man presumed to be his predecessor. Koh and Netah are killed towards the end of the film, while their manga counterparts die on subsequent story arcs after "Portrait of a Killer" (Koh in "Shades of Death Part 1" and Nitta in "A Taste of Revenge").
Reviews for the film have been mixed. Leonard Klady of Variety wrote a favorable review of the film, citing it as "one of the few of the recent batch of comic-book adaptations that works, Crying Freeman has the potential to ring up the type of big numbers that would warrant a franchise. It's hoped that those involved with the first will still be aboard." Kung-Fu Cult Cinema gave the film a score of 3.5 out of 5, citing that it "is very well worth its weight in action." Beyond Hollywood, however, commented on their review that the acting was sub-par and the film's subplot of Yo's relationship with Emu is "not the best story in the world. It’s really rather, well, stupid."