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Film / Hitman (1998)

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Hitman, also known as Contract Killer or King of Killers, is a 1998 Hong Kong action-comedy film starring Jet Li, Eric Tsang, Gigi Leung and Simon Yam (of Bullet in the Head and Killer's Romance fame).

A mysterious hitman known as the "King of Killers" has murdered a wealthy ex-yakuza crime boss, Tsukamoto, and a bounty of US $100 million is placed on the killer, whose true identity remains a mystery. Assassins and killers from all around Hong Kong, including Tsukamoto's grandson Eiji, have their eyes on the prize.

Among the bounty hunters who learn of the prize, is an ex-soldier, Fu (Jet Li), who is an elite fighter but not trained in the skills of being a killer. Teaming up with Ngok Lo (Eric Tsang), a self-proclaimed "expert trainer", Fu ends up becoming part of a larger game where assassins from every corner are eager to kill each other for the bounty. And thrown into all these, is Hong Kong police Officer Chan (Simon Yam), who is investigating the killings.

Do not confuse this with the Chuck Norris film, the video game series, or the 2007 film adapted from the latter.

This film contains examples of

  • Accidental Murder: In the final battle, Eiji, armed with a katana, saw Fu fighting his henchwoman behind a paper sliding door. Eager to kill Fu personally, Eiji lunges forward with his weapon, and ends up impaling her instead of his target. Being a Bad Boss, Eiji doesn’t really bat an eye and continues attacking.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Most of the assassins in the movie qualify. Subverted with Ngok, who is a comic relief and The Team Normal.
  • Bad Habits: The first elite hitman Fu had to battle is a Caucasian assassin dressed as a priest, who carries a rosary which he uses as a garotte, and favors using grenades hidden in his robes.
  • Blinded by the Light: The Tall Guy, Eiji’s personal bodyguard and dragon, wears a mood ring which hides a laser light pointer, which he will periodically flash into the eyes of his opponents to blind and distract them then beat them while they’re momentarily unable to see. Heck its not just his mood ring, he even had laser pointers in the tip of his shoes!
  • Costume-Test Montage: Fu, in a shopping mall, when testing for the best "professional costume" an expert hitman should wear, and going through at least 8 different outfits in the process.
  • Dark Action Girl: One of Eiji’s minions is a Yakuza hitwoman dressed in a kimono, who uses her belt in a surprisingly impressive display of Cloth Fu which she used to beat up Ngok in the final battle.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Overlapping with Improvised Weapon, in the final battle against the Tall Guy, Fu uses his belt as a whip to beat the snot out of his opponent, and even manage to damage the laser pointer light in the Tall Guy’s mood ring preventing him from using it to cheat in battle.
    • Possibly an Actor Allusion, the earlier Jet Li film Fist of Legend also features him fighting a katana-wielding opponent using only his belt. And winning.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: One action scene in the film had Fu battling an assassin on top of a moving elevator.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Fu may be an expert assassin and ruthless killing machine by the end of the film, but he still have a soft spot for his mother. After receiving his prized bounty from the Tsukamoto household, the first thing he intends to use the money for is to buy a new house for his mother.
  • Friend to All Children: Fu, despite being a ruthless killer, is also good with children, being friendly with a bunch of kids in a carnival and using his impressive projectile-throwing skills to win loads of toys and stuffed animals in a coin-toss stand for the children surrounding him. The stand’s owner, however, is NOT impressed.
  • Ground by Gears: During the elevator fight, the assassin fighting Fu atop the elevator ends up accidentally caught in the gears and minced into bits.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Officer Chan, a.k.a the elusive King of Killers, turns out to be on the side of good. And by the end of the movie, Fu also becomes one.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The killer priest met his own maker when he attempts to blow up Fu with a flung grenade, only for Fu to kick his grenade back into the sleeves of his robes, where it ends up getting lost and blowing up the killer priest.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Eiji’s demise when Fu sends him falling face-first into the blade of a katana stabbed upright on the floor.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Fu is a deadshot with anything, and can throw projectiles with ludicrous precision. One scene in a carnival had him impressing a child by lobbing coins at a coin-toss prize counter full of stuffed animals, and a few minutes later the entire stand had to pack up early because Fu had won all the toys available as prizes.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Chan uses this method to get the drop on his targets when performing assassinations, including in the opening Action Prologue where he sneaks into Tsukamoto’s penthouse and him showing up in a Big Damn Heroes moment in the finale, reinforcing Fu against Eiji’s thugs.
  • No Name Given: Several rival assassins weren’t even given names throughout the movie, including the killer priest, the Yakuza henchwoman, and The Dragon simply called the Tall Guy.
  • Opponent Switch: The final battle appears to follow Counterpart Combat Coordination, with Chan the King of Killers battling Eiji the Big Bad, while Fu the new elite hitman fighting The Dragon called the Tall Guy, but as all four combatants ends up in the same area, Chan and Fu quickly swaps their opponents, with Chan taking on the Tall Guy and Fu fighting Eiji.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Ngok, the sidekick and self-proclaimed "expert trainer" for Fu. Played by Hong Kong comedian Eric Tsang who made a career being this trope.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Gigi is the only one about to do this on the poster though.
  • Suplex Finisher: In the final battle, Chan defeats the Tall Guy by suplex-ing his opponent, head-first, on the edge of a table, killing him.
  • Secondary Character Title: The titular hitman refers to Officer Chan, Simon Yam’s character; Jet Li’s Fu is a fighter and martial artist who spends much of the movie training to be a hitman. Although by the time the credits roll Fu himself is indeed an elite hitman, making it a Double-Meaning Title.
  • Yakuza: The Tsukamoto family, including Eiji, whom are the main villains of the film.