Posted by Ryatta
So finishing off my first season of reviews we get to Crying Freeman, a film adaption of the manga of the same name. Starring Mark Decascos in a perfect, yet highly underused role of the titular assassin. With comic adaptions being such big crowd drawing features in the current movie climate how does this film stand against other film adaptions.
Talking of comic adaptions it’s better to compare this film to adaptions like Death Note and A History of Violence then bigger action films like Batman or Spiderman. Crying Freeman follows the more dramatic route and puts little emphasis on actual action, which considering the amount of action scenes in the film was probably not intentional. Also like Death Note in particular the film only features half the story of the manga, drawing to a close and giving a more optimistic ending compared to the original text. So let’s look at the story and see how well it pulls off it adaption…
The story introduces us to Freeman, master assassin for the ‘Sons of the Dragons’. A Chinese syndicate that has him kill people who would harm the Chinese people and have been around for centuries, as has Freeman; or so legends have told. He kills anyone who ever sees him so his identity is a mystery. The name of Crying Freeman comes as he sheds tears for his targets when he kills them. This changes when he allows a young girl called Emu to see his face, upon eventually returning to kill her he finds her willing to die, asking that simply he does not let her die a virgin, this leads to him falling in love with her and going against his rules to protect her and bringing her to his home.
The first part of the film is essentially narrated by Emu until Freeman explains his back story when he takes over narration. The first half of the film deals with the Emu being protected by police while triads look for her knowing she can identify Freeman, as well as the fallout surrounding Freeman’s killings. The second half focuses on Freeman’s back story and fights to escape from the Dragon’s and make his own life for himself and Emu when everyone turns on him given his new found compassion.
The main issue that I have with the film is that it fails to make Freeman look as powerful as he claims to be, while he uses his martial arts to great effect at the end of the film up to that point there is no use of them, focusing on gun play. That’s all well and good but when it comes to killing his method is to walk forward slowly and occasionally roll to dodge oncoming fire. While this might be how it happens in the manga… I’ve not read it, but it just makes the triads look like the most incompetent killers ever. Given that they have a scene where the decimate a bunch of Dragons while Freeman isn’t around they seem very competent and threatening when they face off against Freeman the tough to run, gun and take cover seems to go completely out the window which is a failure on the films part as Freeman should not look invincible by the enemies failures but because their simple out classed.
Now as previously mentioned Mark Decascos is perfect for Freeman, he’s able to show too completely different personalities off throughout the film, the cold killer and the compassionate potter. It’s all in his eyes and it’s done so well that you see him as two different people, once again it’s down to the plots badly done portrayal of how he’s being controlled in his killer state that it leaves you confused for a lot of the film due to the mind control adding more questions than answering and I’ll be talking about that more later on.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, while Emu and Koh (Freeman’s handler and played by Byron Mann) are really only other two interesting characters in the film. The way Emu is handled with her narration feels very dated by today’s standards and feels very monotone, I suppose to show her lack of love for life anymore buy it just comes off as very clichéd. Koh on the other hand is great, and makes for a great on screen presence and a match for Freeman at the best of times… he actually kills more people then Freeman does during the film. He’s Freeman’s trainer and handles, they seem to be friends and he’s understanding to a degree but is loyal to the Dragons and it leads to him choosing them over Freeman, leading to his death. While even in death he shows compassion and regret for having to turn on Freeman.
The rest of the cast save for the leaders of the triads of the gets very little screen time and the corrupt Detective Netah feels generic and boring in his role, feeling little more than an opportunist and seems out of place in the second half of the film. The triads could have been written out in the first half of the film as well purely to focus on the Dragons and Freeman’s rebellion against them which feels like a loose end given all that happens from that is Koh trying to kill him. While Freeman gets the last remain triad to swear that he’s dead I imagine they’d do more than simple take her word on it.
The ending is the biggest change from the manga, essentially ending the story with them disappearing as opposed to the manga where both Emu and Freeman become heads to the triads. There are more the a few things that the movie simply does not elaborate on leaving a couple of plot holes that just confuse the viewer. While it’s made clear that Freeman is put under some kind of mind control, but it’s never made clear how it works, while it can be assumed as a form of magic no other reference to magic is made in the film. It’s also never made clear how Freeman manages to fight it, essentially being in killer mode one second and perfectly normal in the next. Before it’s explained in the plot it’s something that confuses even more, while this might be the case.
So lets look at the action in more detail, as I previously stated earlier Mark Decascos is highly underused in this film, as well as Mann to an even a bigger extent given that they are both highly accomplished martial artists. Mann never even has a proper fight scene while Decascos gets only one; he shows what he’s capable of while the fight choreography and camera angles show the poor performances of the stunt men, clearly unsure of how to react the precise movements. The gun play is simple and generally has little choreography to it, falling foul of the point and shoot rule that most films fall foul of, everyone points directly at the target of their desire but unless their main characters they never hit their target, though Freeman will occasionally jump several feet in the air out of nowhere in the style of an 80s action film.
I have to say that the film in all isn’t that bad, as adaptions go it certainly is faithful to its source material while changing the ending in the same way that Death Note and Watchmen did. Unfortunately it does feel dated in tone and characterisation but you can’t fault it on that count and it does succeed in using that it its advantage. While some of the characters do feel a bit boring at times they generally are cast well, with a lot of the actors being unknown at the time for the most part they have all gone into other big American films and in bigger roles.
It’s certainly worth seeing a mange adapted right when so many films from that generation missed the point of their source material, Crying Freeman is a success overall and its worth checking out, its slow paced at times but the second half of the film picks up and becomes much more entertaining as the film goes on, its compelling and even artistic at times and deserves a chance.
About RyattaSo about me... Well when I'm not reviewing things I'm a technical animator working in one of the UKs biggest game studios!
Posted on 02/18/2012, in Other, Text Reviews/Articles and tagged adaption, assassin, byron mann, crying freeman, death note, emu, freeman, history of violence, manga, mark decascos, martial arta, Reviews, ryatta. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.