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Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 10/12/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Columbia released Contract Killer in 2002, but this movie is actually a Westernized release of Jet Li's final Hong Kong film Hitman (1998); this explains some questions that anyone watching this film today may have. It's obvious from the beginning that this is a Hong Kong film because the voices are all dubbed (not all that impressively in spots), making it strange to listen to the hard-driving, rap-heavy soundtrack of English-language songs. As you may have guessed, this is not the original soundtrack. The whole movie has a weird feel to it: Jet Li's character Fu is not really the hired killer type, and it's hard to interpret the character in a good-bad dichotomy; the movie also seems to morph back and forth between action and comedy, eventually combining the two into a hybrid that entertains but doesn't feel exactly right. The film opens quite impressively, with the assassination of a rich Japanese business man; the killer is good, having basically outsmarted and defeated a whole building full of bodyguards. Then we meet up with Fu (Li), a seemingly quite nice but cash-poor ex-soldier whom we find in the strange company of a gang of young assassins for hire. There's never really an adequate explanation for how he got in this unexpected business. Anyway, he's looked down upon because he has never really done a job. When he gets wind of a $100 million reward for the capture and murder of the man soon to be known as The King of Assassins, he tries to infiltrate the proceedings. There, he meets up with a con man named Norman (Eric Tsang), who for some unclear reason brings Fu to the meeting with him and tells him he will be his new agent. Fu is an unlikely choice for such a big job, and his first test shows clearly that he does not really have the heart of a cold-blooded killer. Still, he stays with Tsang and mixes it up with some major league assassins and criminals in an attempt to find the killer and claim the reward. There isn't a whole lot of action until the final third of the film, and only one scene stands out in terms of its impressiveness and length. The identity of the King of Killers did come as a surprise to me, although I'm sure it will be obvious to some. The end of the film, I might add, only further exacerbates my problem with the movie's concept; Fu's occupation just doesn't jive with the character's personality. This is apparently as much of a comedy as it is an action film, thanks largely to Eric Tsang's character Norman the agent. You can't help but like the guy, especially given the fact that he doesn't seem cut out for the whole business of contract killing; he is pretty funny for the most part, but he does ham it up a bit much in several scenes. I think Jet Li did a fine job of acting here, but the character of Fu is by no means one of his better roles; Fu is just too vague and self-contradictory in nature. This is not really a martial arts film, I might add. There are several hand-to-hand contests, a couple of them involving a bad guy equipped with blinding light beams on his fingers and boots, but this is more of an action flick that just so happens to feature a few kung fu type encounters. Contract Killer does offer a good view of Jet Li in the time period immediately preceding his jump to American movie stardom, and the contrast between this particular Hong Kong film and his American films is rather striking. You can't get the full Hong Kong experience, however, because of the dubbing and the new soundtrack used in place of the original. Contract Killer is probably best suited for Jet Li fans because the movie itself just doesn't seem to click on all cylinders."
NOT BAD, BUT NOT OUTSTANDING
Daniel Jolley | 04/21/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm giving this a higher review than I think it deserves becuase its unfairly critisized for trying to have a plot instead of meandering from one bloated fight scene to the next. While not a super Jet Li movie, he's definitely done a whole lot worse. This movie is golden when compared to unwatchable fare like Black Mask and Dr. Wai. It has its moments of humor, mainly working when poking fun of itself- the hitman genre of movies. It also has its moments of action, altough it has fewer fighting scenes than your average kung fu flick, but the final fight is, probably, decent enough to make up for it. Well worth watching."
Jet Li in Action/Comedy; the Action can be good, but the
Steve Vander | 06/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"comedy isn't that good . . .
1998 R-rated Hong Kong Martial Arts film (set in Hong Kong, with Japanese criminals; R-rated for violence and some language). Also known as "Sat sau ji wong," "Hitman," and "King of Assassins."
DVD Features: The DVD contains the movie and some special features. The movie can be heard in English (Dolby Digital or Dolby Surround), or Spanish (apparently no Chinese option), and has a "English for the deaf and hard of hearing" subtitle option. The special features are: Director and cast filmographies, film trailer, "Jet Li Bonus Trailers" ("The One," "Meltdown," and "Legend of The Red Dragon"), and a photo gallery.
Credits: The movie stars Jet Li (Fu; "Romeo Must Die," "Once Upon a Time in China"), Gigi Leung (Kiki; "A True Mob Story"), Simon Yam (Kwan; "Casino"), and Eric Tsang (Ngok Lo; "The Accidental Spy"). The director is Tung Wai (also known as Wei Tung; "Fox Hunter"). Written by Chan Heng Ka, Vincent Kok, and Cheng Kam Fa.
Plot: Jet Li is a contract killer (or an ex-soldier willing to kill for money) after an assassin of a Yakuza boss. The boss had set up a reward for the one who catches his killer. A reward of One Hundred Million Dollars ($50 million for catching killer, $50 million for finding the ones who hired the killer).
Review: Like "Romeo Must Die," this film uses rap music as its movie music. Unlike that "Romeo" movie, I've never heard of this Jet Li film, and am confused by it. Due to the lack of Chinese language options, and based on the type of movie music, the movie seems as if it was intended for USA release (or rerelease), but I've never heard of it (though the movie appears to be badly dubbed and I believe that at one point, Jet Li's voice changes (odd they wouldn't have Chinese language option)).
I think that the movie is supposed to be something of a comedy, and there are some funny moments, but the humor seems a little off (especially considering the enormous blood spillage). This movie is not at all like I expected. I expected Li to be, and act, like an assassin. Instead he is mostly a novice (a skilled one, due to be an ex-soldier), and seems at first to be incompetent (maybe "slow"). Despite these comments, the actions scenes are interesting, while the comedy scenes, for the most part, are not (and the evil guys have some neat tricks).
The acting was average, the plot was somewhat interesting, the action scenes were good, but the comedy and music were, mostly, off-putting. Overall, I would give the movie 3.20 stars."
One of JL's better movies
Omar Shoman | Vienna | 06/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is difficult to come up with something new to say about this movie, all the good stuff has been said by previous reviewers. I watched this movie after watching Bodyguard from Beijing and Black Mask, so this movie ranks high in my opinion. I think this is one of JL's better movies (compared to the other two). It is funny, and the plot is pretty consistent. The only problem I had was about The Killing Angel character; he did not seem as tough as he should have. In other words, this is a must for JL fans, and a must if you are interested in watching such types of movies."
[3.5] you can't love it but you can't hate it
dominion_ruler | Carolina, USA | 09/27/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While Contract Killer was somewhat entertaining, there were still some elements that kept this film from being as strong as many of Jet Li's standards. For one, Li's character "Fu" never really clicked for me. Fu is not a homeless character, but close to it, and suddenly finds himself with the opportunity to collect a $100 million reward for capturing a murderer known as "The King of Killers". Now we know Jet Li has some of the best martial arts around, but when he unleashes in this film (which honestly felt like hardly ever) it just seems to come out of nowhere from the kind of character he plays. His fighting does seem very limited, and well, it is. There is only one noteworthy martial arts fight scene, and that would have to be the ending of the film. Even that scene wasn't too rememberable compared to most Li films. Still, the plot had some interest and Eric Tsang's character as Li's agent kept things rolling, along with a surprise on who the King of Killers turned out to be.
This is what I like to call a very Americanized release of a H.K. film. In addition to the English dubbing (though it wasn't the worst I have seen) the soundtrack is rap heavy at times. Amusingly, there was even a rap song written for the credits titled "Contract Killer". Go figure. If you are into the whole adding hip-hop to Asian cinema, you should enjoy this as some of the beats and rap were decent.
The plot barely held together what was considered a long hour and half watch for me. The fact was that there just wasn't enough action to glue it all together like most Jet Li films, or action films for that matter. I was hoping maybe it was all being saved for the end, but even then the final fight scenes that lasted several minutes didn't do their justice. I enjoyed the 2 main villains in this film, but had hoped for more of them in the fight scenes. The 2nd villain - and English looking fellow - provided some originality to the fights, with a laser flasher attached to his rings and shoes. When flashed in Jet Li's face, it blinded him momentarily, leaving him open to an attack. But once he learned his way around it, the fight was pretty much over.
Contract Killer is an average Jet Li film. It has good moments here and there, but in the end you may be left with the feeling of "That was it?" Afraid so."