A Japanese businessman is assassinated by a mysterious avenger, known only as the Angel of Death. The businessman's will stipulates that a bounty of $100 million be placed on the heads of the killers. The world's top hitmen come to take up the challenge, along with the dead man's grandson and our heroes, Norman and Fred.

Norman bails Fred out and becomes his agent, not realising that Fred has never successfully completed a hit in his life and was only sent to the top secret rendevous because his ex-boss was fed up. But by the time the misunderstanding is sorted out the pair are too involved to back out...

Jet Li's last Hong Kong film to date represents something of a departure from the formula with which he made his name. Though Wu Shu and wire fighting aren't absent, with a final showdown that should satisfy all but the most jaded chop socky fans, the emphasis is squarely on action comedy of the type more usually associated with Jackie Chan.

The surprising thing is how well it works.

There are some weaknesses in the writing, but no more than one would expect: After Leon and The Killer, you get used to the idea that hitmen always have to be quirky, basically decent and don't kill people unless they really deserve it.

As Fred, Li displays a casual, easy-going charm and a good sense of comic timing. Despite the film being an obvious vehicle to display his talents, he rarely grandstands and works well with his fellow actors, particularly Eric Tsang, who is an absolute delight as his Sammo Hung-esque foil Norman.

And while director Wei Tung may shamelessly rip off the likes of John Woo, he does so with such enthusiasm and energy you don't really care.

All in all, The Hitman is a very pleasant surprise. It's certainly much better than its the description ("Star vehicle to show Jet Li can do comedy action") might lead you to believe.

Reviewed on: 04 Oct 2002
Share this with others on...
The Hitman packshot
Action comedy with Jet Li as a reluctant hitman.
Amazon link

Director: Wei Tung

Writer: Hing-Ka Chan, Kam Fa Cheung

Starring: Jet Li, Eric Tsang, Simon Lam, Gigi Leung, Keiji Sato, Paul Rapovski, Kwong Kim Yip, Hideri Meiken, Timmy Ho

Year: 1998

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Hong Kong


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Rush Hour