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The Hitman
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:1998
Rating:NR
Length:1 Hour 44 Minutes
Cast:Tung Wai, Jet Li, Eric Tsang, Simon Yam

Martial arts superstar Jet Li shows his kinder-and-gentler side in this bouncy gangster movie, the last Hong Kong film in which he starred before migrating to Hollywood. Contract Killer downplays the elaborate action sequences for which Li is famous in favor of character-driven comedy and light romance. The story begins as a corrupt Japanese tycoon, convinced he will soon be assassinated, establishes a $100 million "revenge fund" to be paid to whichever bounty hunter takes out his killer. Jet Li plays a former soldier and wannabe hit man who is persuaded by small-time con artist Eric Tsang to compete for the jackpot. Sure enough, the tycoon is murdered, and Li is off and running -- literally. Asian pop superstar Gigi Leung is delightful as Tsang's levelheaded daughter, who would just as soon see Li stay clear of the ruthless bounty hunters; her scenes with him are among the film's brightest moments. Contract Killer is less an action film than a buddy movie, and it derives its charm from the chemistry between Li and Tsang. Viewers who dote on Li's almost superhuman feats of daring won't entirely be disappointed, but director Tung Wai seems much more interested in maintaining a breezy tone and giving the star an opportunity to display his winning personality. Fast-moving and funny, Contract Killer is certain to win Jet Li new fans while keeping his faithful followers sufficiently entertained. Ed Hulse

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