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Jet Li collection

The Hitman is now available
with The Master in a Jet Li
collection DVD double-bill.
October 2005 SITE MAP   SEARCH

The Hitman
cast: Jet Li, Heiji Sato, Simon Yam, Gigi Leung, Eric Tsang

director: Tung Wei

103 minutes (18) 1998
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Bob Neilson
Having watched a Jet Li movie of a slightly older vintage very recently, it was with some trepidation that I stuck this into my DVD player. But I need not have worried this is a mature, commercially astute Jet Li we are dealing with, a very assured performer who feels he has more to offer than plain kung fu mayhem. Released the same year he made his Hollywood debut (Lethal Weapon 4, where unusually he plays a heavy), The Hitman is relatively tightly scripted and the acting measures up to the best of Hong Kong, which is pretty damn good these days.

Li plays a wannabe hitman with no rep, no contacts and no way of getting a job. When a masked vigilante assassinates a top criminal, and a reward of 100 million dollars is offered for the head of the assassin, all the top hitmen in the world are invited to collect. When he attempts to crash the meeting where the details of the job will be handed out (a deposit of $5 million he hasn't got is required), Li is befriended by a 'hitman agent' and employed by him to hunt the vigilante. Now, the agent is obviously a fake - obvious that is to everyone except Li's character and the criminals, even though he has the $5 million deposit. And though that may look like an obvious hole in the plot it is explained away almost reasonably later on.

Of course Li's agent has a beautiful daughter and of course the criminal has a psychotic son who also wants to avenge his father and, of course, Li and his agent are cheated at every hand's turn. But overall, if this is hogwash, it is very entertaining hogwash. I guess the plot would not really stand up to the intense scrutiny of a Hollywood audience and it is not sufficiently original to warrant a remake. But it is an absorbing hour and forty minutes to be passed in the company of a likeable Jet Li and a supporting cast who avoid chewing the scenery too much, though Tsang, by the nature of his casting as comic relief, is an acceptable exception.

This may be a little light on kung fu pyrotechnics for the confirmed fan but for the casual viewer I can think of many worse places to encounter Jet Li or Hong Kong cinema in general. Well worth a look.

DVD extras: theatrical trailer, UK music promo, a production photo gallery, Jet Li biography, and interviews with Jet Li, Simon Yam and Heiji Sato. The extras are pretty much what one has come to expect as an absolute minimum these days. Most of them are perfunctory, though the Jet Li biography was good and the interviews watchable. One hint however, don't watch the music promo before the film as it concentrates on the ending and gives away at least one vital piece of information that may detract from your enjoyment of the film.

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