Netflix is streaming the craziest action movie of 2024. Here’s why I loved it

A man ogles a girl in City Hunter.

This month seems to be the time to release action movies that color outside the lines. We’ve already had Dev Patel’s Monkey Man, a messy, throw-everything-at-the-wall action movie that blends intricate fight sequences and on-the-nose social commentary in an entertaining package that will surely gain cult status in the near future. Just this weekend, Boy Kills World dished out loads of cartoon violence and over-the-top gore in a bid for John Wick-level fandom. Both movies bend or break the rules of reality to deliver quickly cut fight scenes that push the boundaries of the genre, all in an attempt to one-up the high standards set by the best movies in the Mission: Impossible and Fast and Furious franchises.

Yet the best of the April bunch is the one that has the lowest profile. City Hunter doesn’t star anyone you’d recognize like It actor Bill Skarsgård in Boy Kills World and hasn’t been backed by an extensive marketing campaign like Universal’s Monkey Man. But the movie is a blast; it’s like putting Pop Rocks in a can of Mountain Dew and chasing it down with a couple of Pixy Sticks. It’s ludicrous, immature, and totally unrealistic. It’s also my favorite action movie of 2024. Here’s why you need to stream City Hunter pronto.

It’s an adaptation of a massively popular franchise

Two men talk to each other in City Hunter.

If you’re not a manga, anime, or Jackie Chan fan, you’ve probably never heard of City Hunter. That’s OK, I hadn’t either until I watched Netflix’s version. City Hunter began life as a popular manga series in 1985. It was quickly adapted into an anime series in 1987 and, later, theatrical animated movies released in 1989, 1990, 1999, 2019, and 2023. It’s also been adapted into several live-action iterations, including a 1993 Hong Kong movie starring Jackie Chan (who publicly trashed the film) and a 2019 French version with Pamela Anderson (!) in the cast.

The Netflix version carries no baggage from the previous versions; in other words, you don’t need to know anything about the mythology of City Hunter to understand what’s going on. The movie’s plot is pretty straightforward: Former cops Ryo Saeba and his partner Hideyuki Makimura run a detective agency named City Hunter. They’re hired to find a teenage runaway, who has ingested a bootleg Angel Dust drug that gives its user temporary super strength. The only down side? You kinda die after the effects wear off.

A man looks down at a woman in City Hunter.

After Hideyuki is murdered by one of these Angel Dust users, Ryo must team up with his partner’s adopted sister, Kaori, to find the the runway, protect her, avenge Hideyuki’s death, and take down the criminal organization behind the whole drug enterprise.

This is a fairly typical action movie plot (it reminded me a bit of the first two Lethal Weapon movies as well as The Adventures of Ford Fairlane), and it’s retro simplicity is part of its charm. There’s no spooky AI algorithm to battle or world-ending crisis to solve; instead, Ryo has to overcome a designer drug cartel and a police force that doesn’t entirely trust his renegade behavior.

The action scenes are over-the-top and sublime

A man floating in air kicks another man in the face in City Hunter.

Is it a shock to claim that action movies live or die by their action sequences? No, of course not. And if you judge City Hunter purely by its fight scenes, the movie is a clear winner. It opens with one of its best scenes: an extended chase scene that starts with Ryo hand-gliding his way into a skyscraper, shooting a window so it break upon impact, executing a Street Fighter-style flying kick that would make Chun-Li proud, and concluding with Ryo using a massage mat to slide down some stairs and fly out another window, his flight scored by soaring rock music and punctuated by slow motion so you can soak it all in.

And that’s just the first 15 minutes! Later in the movie, there’s a showdown at a crowded cosplay convention where Ryo fights a leather-clad woman with a whip a la Catwoman, who then pulls out two small knives from the base of her bullwhip to subdue Ryo. Oh, and there’s also someone with a rifle shooting at Ryo while all this is going on. City Hunter‘s action scenes are intense and often brutal, and even if they aren’t remotely realistic, you’re still on the edge of your seat to see how it will all turn out.

Ryo is both incredibly cool and utterly immature

City Hunter | Official Teaser | Netflix

Two of my favorite action heroes ever are Steve McQueen’s cool, stylish cop in Bullitt and Spike Spiegel’s aloof loner in Cowboy Bebop. With his fashionable turtleneck shirts, beige trench coat, and playboy attitude, City Hunter‘s Ryo Saeba is clearly drawn from the same cloth. And it’s a credit to actor Ryohei Suzuki that he embodies the aspects of this character flawlessly. Ryohei is incredibly charismatic, and he makes you love Ryo even when he’s acting like a complete idiot.

A man aims his gun in City Hunter.

Unlike the characters that clearly inspired him, Ryo is immature and a bit goofy. He’s addicted to porn, ogles women’s breasts shamelessly, and is prone to showing his, er, excitement, when someone attractive is around him. (And someone always is.) Yet City Hunter doesn’t let its hero off the hook with this behavior.

Through Kaori’s constant disapproval and nudging to be better, Ryo eventually reigns in his immaturity enough to keep his focus and solve the case. It’s a redemptive arc that isn’t overplayed, and it feels earned.

City Hunter constantly surprises you

A man and a woman perform at a cosplay event in City Hunter.

I’d be remiss to not briefly touch on one of the best aspects of City Hunter: It always keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. The movie has its own narrative logic, so it never feels choppy, but it also constantly springs one surprise after another. From the aforementioned chase scene that opens the movie to its third-act showdown that pits Ryo and Kaori against a seemingly endless stream of foes, City Hunter throws constantly curveballs at you.

One such curveball is its non-sequitur humor. The movie is funny in ways that is both cheap and sophomoric, but it works. This is pre-adolescent humor that cheerfully finds comedy in the most juvenile things like uncontrollable erections, pervy photographers, and exploding heads, but it somehow all makes sense.

A man dances at a disco in City Hunter.

And then there’s a scene at a disco that finds City’s Hunter‘s hero in nothing but a barely-there Speedo, dancing and posing joyfully in front of an adoring crowd. Why is Ryo doing this? And what purpose does it serve the movie? I’ll leave it to you to discover the answers to those questions because it’s all part of what makes the movie such a hoot to watch. You’d never find Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt doing what Ryo does in this movie, which makes it all the more unique and special to watch.

City Hunter may not be for everyone, and that’s OK. If you prefer dour action movies that are deadly serious, then give this film a hard pass. But if you want to see some of the craziest action scenes in film today, and don’t mind engaging with a movie that wields immature humor like a giant hammer (Kaori literally does this in several scenes), then start streaming City Hunter as soon as possible. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously (just look at the last image of this article for proof) and remembers to prioritize one of the key reasons why we want to watch action movies in the first place: to have fun.

City Hunter is now streaming on Netflix.