Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
Hong Kong Legends have struck again, and this time they have delivered a collection of Jet Li films into our laps; Hitman and The Master. While perhaps not the two greatest films from Jet Li’s career, they are certainly two entertaining action flicks that wouldn’t be out of place on your DVD shelf right next to Hero and some of his other more famous movies.

Movie Review: Hitman
The most textbook explanation of Hitman’s plot would this: Tai Feng (Jet Li) is the titular hitman in the story, and a man with a talent for deliberately missing the intended victim. When Tai’s agent, Sam enters the scene and starts to use him for his amazing martial arts abilities, the two set out to acquire billions of dollars from the Japanese mobsters. Naturally, action ensues, and lots of it too. Also staring here is Eric Tsang and Simon Yam amongst a few other familiar faces. The general purpose of this movie is to enthral with its plentiful action scenes and somewhat over the top narrative, but all of it is purely in the name of fun.

Between the two films in the collection, this is by far the best and most energetic, at least in the opinion of this critic. I found it to be both highly stylistic and unrelenting in its action overdrive, though a fine blend of the satirically dark humour that runs strongly in its veins clearly takes precedence in some scenes. This is not a distraction and doesn’t come off as folly, but rather serves to interject a sometimes much needed humour into the foray.

Jet Li is, as always, brutally cool. He was clearly born to play these kinds of characters and I have to admit that his infrequent Hollywood appearances don’t touch his Hong Kong cinema flicks. Much Like Jackie Chan, he is at his best when he heads up an Asian cinema treat such as Hitman.

Score: 7/10

Movie Review: The Master
The Master is a story of revenge and becoming. Jei Li is the young and enthusiastic Kung Fu champion by the name of ‘Jet’ as it would happen, and becomes embroiled in a brutal and rather bloody vendetta against his former master. He must combine his brilliant talent of martial arts and intelligence to overcome his enemies and to survive in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. So, Jet has it tough again, but at least it provides us viewers with plenty of ultra quick kung fu action, right?

While this might be the case, I don’t think that The Master is anything special to be perfectly honest, and I neither found it totally engaging or all that gripping. Yes, it does have some cool action set pieces and Mr. Li is as great as ever here, but outside of that and the occasional explosive drive of style there isn’t anything monumental about the film.

What I actually found most interesting about the film however, was the Japanese take on the American culture and way of life. I am so used to seeing, as I am sure most of us are, the American take on its own culture from the eyes of a Hong Kong legend such as Jackie Chan or Jet Li that I hadn’t really thought about what it might be like from the Asian perspective. Films such as The One and Rush Hour are perfect examples of this, they are films that exploit and often mock the culture difference though the eyes of the action star. In The Master we get to see a slightly different angle on this, which makes for some interesting debate after the films ends. This was perhaps the best part of the movie, sadly. But The Master is a pretty decent film despite some lofty flaws and some clunky direction, though I definitely thought that it was the weakest of the two included in this collection.

Score: 6/10

Both films are presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer and I am pleased to say that both look pretty good, despite some drawbacks. Hitman is the weakest looking in terms of direct visual impact; the colours are a little washed out and murky, the grain levels are a little higher than average and there are some on-screen artefacts on the print that spring up from time to time. That said the overall image looks reasonably sharp and well presented.

The Master contains a brand new digital re-master, or so it says on the cover. Personally I thought the image wasn’t all that impressive with often heavy doses of grain and edge enhancement and mucky colours. Perhaps the original master was beyond repair? Whatever the reason, this is not the digital transfer it is cracked up to be. Still, it does have some plusses, such as its sharpness and image vibrancy for example, but this is an image that will not impress but ultimately serves its purpose nonetheless.

Hitman, again, is the weaker of the two in terms of technical merits. There is no Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on offer here, only a DD 2.0 in both English and Cantonese. The English dub for this film, as usual with these sorts of low key martial arts flicks, is horrendously bad. Please, for the sake of your ears, do not listen to the dub. As for the audio handling on Hitman, despite some foggy sound throughout the film it does sound reasonably good. Bass is pretty lame however, but the dialogue is crisp and audible.

The Master features a Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer in both English and Cantonese. There is also an optional mono Cantonese track for those who like their oldschool. The audio on The Master is pretty decent, though its sound effects clearly indicate the age of the film. LFE is not used to great effect here, but the directional effects and dialogue are quite crisp.

Hitman has a few trailers on offer; a musical promo and a theatrical trailer. There is also an interview gallery which features Jet Li, Simon Yam and Keiji Sato. Each of these video clips run for around ten minutes or so and are in pretty bad quality, especially the Jet Li interview which looks truly heinous. To round out the disc there is a photo gallery and a biography page.

The best feature on The Master is the feature length audio commentary from Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan. The commentary is great, making this yet another highly recommendable Bey Logan contribution to these HKL DVDs.

‘The Insider’ is an interview with stuntman and author John Kreng and offers some detailed information on the stunt side of the filming process. ‘Crystal Clear’ is an interview with the leading lady Crystal Kwok. This feature has some in-depth information on the actress herself and how she worked with Jet Li on the film. ‘The Master’ is an interview with Yuen Wah (the Kung Fu legend). Finally, there are some trailers that round the disc out.

While not the best films from Jet Li’s illustrious career, this box set still serves as a nice reminder of his lesser known movies. Would I recommend it as an essential purchase? No, I am afraid I cannot. Could I recommend it as a decent DVD set with two good films? Yes. While the films are certainly entertaining (especially Hitman), the DVDs themselves are not so pretty. The boring special features aside, the audio and visual elements are not that great either. Yes, they are good and certainly don’t spiral into the realm of the downright awful, but I feel that they could have been much better had the time and effort been put into them.