Jet Li is the “Contract Killer” (“Sat sau ji wong”) in this direct from Hong Kong 1998 martial arts thriller. Budget? Nope. Plot? Not really. Jet Li? Definitely. This movie is dubbed, and the comedic voices are almost worth the price of admission, especially when they keep switching at various points through the movie. Its really amusing to see Jet Li change from normal to baritone from one scene to another, and its great listening to the “Kwan” character, who’s voice seems to have been done by a young Jason Alexande….
“Contract Killer,” falls right after “Lethal Weapon 4” and before “Romeo Must Die” in Jet Li’s filmography.
A Japanese Yakuza (Mafia) boss has been assassinated, and his estate has provided a substantial reward for retribution against his killers. Jet Li is an out-of-work soldier looking for a job, and takes the role with comedic sidekick “Kwan.” The movie has some uninspired plot twists, lots of bizarre comments (“This party looks like the guest list for Genghis Khan’s birthday.” — ??), and some decent fight scenes. For the best action, skip right to the appropriately named chapter “Final Fight.” Its not long, but the choreography and trickery are great. All told, a decent product of the Hong Kong film industry, if not the most inspired. Its worth owning if you are a Jet Li or fighting fan for the Final Fight scene alone.
Video gets zero stars due to extensive damage, graininess, and poor coloration. The film is covered in scratches and dust; take a look at Chapters 11 and 12 (“The King of Killers” and “Saving Uncle Leung”) in particular – huge gouges mar the entire picture for several minutes. Colors are generally washed out, with greys instead of blacks and so on.
It’s surprising that Columbia-Tristar didn’t invest more in cleaning up this transfer. For that matter, what happened to this transfer anyway? This movie was filmed in 1998 – there’s no reason it should be gouged and mangled like it is regardless of the transfer budget. While the movie itself may not be a major release, Jet Li enjoying growing credibility as an action star and I would have expected a decent base level of quality for all of his releases.
As with other Columbia-Tristar releases, the sound is very well done. Audio tops out at a well mixed 5.1 track. Bass levels are mixed nicely through-out, as is left-right and front-back separation.
Not much in the way of extras – trailers and filmographies round it out. The menus, incidentally, are pretty pre-fab – some minor 3D animation and funky fonts.
An unexceptional Hong Kong martial arts film is marred by sub-par video. I would recommend this DVD only for die-hard Jet Li fans, who will find value in the solid audio and well choreographed fight scenes.
Special Features List
- Movie Trailer
- Other Jet Li Trailers