The film sees Jackie Chan play Ryo Saeba (aka the City Hunter) who runs a private detective agency with Kaori, the daughter of his former partner. At the beginning of the film Ryo is hired to track down the wayward daughter of wealthy businessman. Ryo and Kaori find her about to get on a cruise liner and board it just as it is about to leave. However, though they find the daughter quickly they also discover that Colonel MacDonald (Richard Norton) and his band of mercenaries have also stuck on board and plan to take all the passengers hostage. It's up to Jackie to once again save the day.
Having watched almost all of Jackie Chan's back catalogue this isn't quite at the bottom but it's nowhere near the top either. Though there's very little stunt work there are some highly memorable fight scenes to recommend, particularly one that takes place inside a cinema that's playing Bruce Lee's fight against Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Game of Death up on the big screen. In a clever bit of meta-commentary Jackie Chan is also fighting two enormous black guys and uses Lee's techniques from the film to win his fight.
Another bit that the film is famous for is a surreal five minute section in which Ryo is thrown into a Street Fighter II arcade machine which somehow magically turns him into various characters from the game from E Honda to Guile to even Chun Li. And there in lies the problem with the film, it tries desperately to translate the goofy antics of the manga comic book into live action but it just doesn't work. The problem with comic books, particularly Japanese manga, is that it's a completely different visual language to film. The only way this could have worked is if the look was stylised like a comic book a la Sin City.
Essentially the film plays out like 85% Die Hard on a Boat and 15% Goofy physics-defying slapstick. They really needed to pick one or the other. Or at least even up the balance. As it is the film feels at times like you're watching an action film but someone keeps flipping the channel to Cartoon Network. Anyway, when the action does come it's pretty good. B-movie stalwarts Richard Norton and Gary Daniels (again!) put in excellent performances. It's just a shame that Daniels one on one with Chan is mostly him dressed up as Ken from Street Fighter doing wire work. It would have been nice to see the two men go toe to toe in a proper fight.
There's also a very cool character called Kao Ta who appears about halfway into the film with absolutely no fanfare, sporting a giant bow tie and precedes to nearly steal the show from Chan by taking out bad guys left, right and centre using playing cards as shiruken. Though the character is very cool he's also emblematic of the film's schizophrenic storyline and tone.
I'm not entirely sure why Chan chose to play the lead in this film. From some cursory research I know that the character of Ryo doesn't suit his sensibilities. Ryo is too much of your classic horny, violent manga hero (see: Lupin III) which doesn't jibe with Chan's classic well-meaning everyman persona (see: Police Story).
All in all, City Hunter is a pretty unessential Jackie Chan flick but those who have seen most of his other stuff it's not a complete failure. There's a lot of great scenes and characters it's just a shame they are lost in this movie.