Hitman (1998 film)

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Film poster
Traditional 殺手之王
Simplified 凶手的国王
Mandarin Xiong shou guo wang
Cantonese Sat sau ji wong
Directed by Tung Wai
Produced by Gordon Chan
Written by
Music by Jussi Tegelman (U.S)
Cinematography Arthur Wong
Edited by Cheung Ka-Fai
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 3 April 1998 (1998-04-03)
Running time
105 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese

Hitman (simplified Chinese: 凶手的国王; traditional Chinese: 殺手之王) is a 1998 Hong Kong action film directed by Tung Wai. The film stars Jet Li, Simon Yam, Eric Tsang and Gigi Leung. The film was released in the Hong Kong on 3 April 1998.


The "King of Killers" is a dangerous assassin that has been operating mostly in southeast Asia. The King of Killers has no known accomplices or colleagues, is not affiliated with any government, religious, or criminal organization, and to this day has kept their true identity a secret. The King of Killers' most recent killing is the well publicized assassination of a notorious ex-yakuza crime boss. Prior to his assassination, the crime boss had set up a revenge fund in case of his death. As a result, the crime boss's power hungry grandson, Eiji Tsukamoto (Renji Sato) takes over as the head of the Tsukamoto family.

Meanwhile, Fu (Jet Li), a contract killer, becomes a small town gang member who lives an extremely simple and modest lifestyle. It is revealed that Fu is very kind and has trouble killing innocent people, a trait that causes him to be disliked by the other low rent triad members. When Fu's boss reveals that there is now a $100 million US bounty on the King of Killers' head for the slaying of the Yakuza boss, Fu is quick to volunteer for the job, but is instead insulted. Fu then attempts to enter the building where the crime boss' lawyers are discussing the terms for the revenge fund, but is detained at the entrance and ushered out by security guards. In self-defense, Fu incapacitates the guards, which draws the attention of Ngok Lo (Eric Tsang), a seedy contract booker and loan shark, who comes to Fu's aid by pretending that he is an agent and Fu is his actor. Thanks to Lo's smooth talking, the pair is able to sidle into the meeting. The meeting however, comes to a halt when H.K.P.F. agents, led by detective Chan (Simon Yam), raid the building in search of known criminals who are meeting there. Chan, a leading detective, has been working tirelessly to expose the King of Killers' true identity for years.

Fu and Lo get acquainted, revealing that Fu is an ex-soldier from mainland China, part of a special, world famous unit known as the "Golden Soldiers". When Lo asks for a demonstration of Fu's skills, he is able to rapidly take down several ruffians simultaneously, but falters when he is confronted by a woman. Lo then explains the deal with Fu, and they head for an amusement park to assassinate the first person believed to be the King of Killers. However, when they get there, it is revealed their target is a simple family man, and instead of killing him, Fu saves his life by killing his other assassins, the low-rank triad members he formerly lived with. Fu and Lo are then arrested, but they are bailed out by Lo's daughter, Kiki (Gigi Leung), an intelligent and successful lawyer fed up with her father's scandalous ways and criminal connections. Fu moves in with Lo now that he has no place to stay, and they quickly become friends.

The next day, Fu and Lo travel to a nursing home, in search of an old acquaintance of Lo's known only as "Uncle Leung". Unbeknownst to them however, Tsukamoto's agents and hired assassins have already traveled to Leung's home. After an explosion and a foot pursuit, Fu, Lo, and Leung are confronted by Tsukamoto's lead bodyguard, known only as "the Tall Guy" (Paul Rapovski), who is guarding the entrance. The Tall Guy defeats Fu by cheating with light-emitting devices, while the rest of Tsukamoto's men hold the three hostage. Leung dies after yelling a Cantonese obscenity, and Tsukamoto shoots the corpse in the head before turning his gun to Lo. The Tall Guy says to leave them, advising that killing innocents will only attract more unwanted attention, and Tsukamoto and his agents leave.

Fu persuades Lo to confess to his connection with Leung. It is revealed that a few years prior, Lo had met Leung at an antique shop, where the old man had been attempting to sell some war notes. Out of pity for the elderly man, Lo befriended him and learned that the old man's entire family had been slain by a Japanese criminal. The Japanese criminal is revealed to be Tsukamoto's grandfather. Lo had advised Leung to keep the war notes due to their financial worth and cash them in the event the criminal died. With Tsukamoto's grandfather dead, Leung cashes in his notes and forwards the money to Lo, leaving a paper trail that frame Lo to look like he was the King of Killers. A team of assassins raid Lo's apartment, and Fu foils the attempt. The pair make a quick stop at Kiki's engagement party, where Lo and Kiki reconcile. Fu and Lo are also confronted by detective Chan, where Fu deduces Chan's identity as the King of Killers.

Fu and Lo then arrive at Tsukamoto's complex, where Lo admits to being the King of Killers, and Fu then pretends to shoot him. However, it is revealed that the revenge fund's lead lawyer has arranged a deal with Tsukamoto, so that no matter who kills the King of Killers, it will be Tsukamoto who gets the bounty. The two are in trouble as Tsukamoto's agents close in, but detective Chan arrives and begins killing the gang members. After an extended series of fight sequences, Fu manages to kill Tsukamoto, the Tall Guy, and all of Tsukamoto's bodyguards and henchmen. In a boat meeting arranged by the revenge fund's lawyer, the bounty is split between Fu, Chan, and Lo. Chan plans to retire as The King of Killers and offers the title to Fu.


  • Jet Li as Fu, the main character of the film, an extremely skilled melee fighter, but also a naive and inexperienced hitman in training
  • Simon Yam as Officer Chan Kwan, a capable and determined detective who is actually the dangerous vigilante King of Killers alter ego
  • Eric Tsang as Ngok Lo, a self-proclaimed "rat bastard" who makes the rent by any means necessary and is a notorious liar and cheater
  • Gigi Leung as Kiki Lo, Ngok Lo's daughter. An intelligent and beautiful lawyer who is exasperated with her father's misdoings
  • Sato Renji as Eiji Tsukamoto, a ruthless and focused gang member who seeks the bounty on his grandfather's killer
  • Paul Rapovski as The Tall Guy, Tsukamoto's lead bodyguard and a skilled, if not cheap, fighter
  • Ip Kwong Kim as Martin, a lawyer in charge of the revenge fund who is not above lying to make a profit
  • Hideri Meiken as Sasaki, a Japanese karate practitioner who is Tsukamoto's bodyguard
  • Sahara Kenji as Tsukamoto, a sleazy and notorious ex-yakuza boss who is assassinated by the King of Killers at the beginning of the film
  • Timmy Ho as David Wu, a detective in charge of finding and exposing the King of Killers
  • Chen Tung as Kau, a small town triad lieutenant who was briefly Fu's boss
  • Ng Chi Hung as Father at Amusement Park, a father who was erroneously believed to be the King of Killers


Hong Kong Legends released the DVD on 16 October 2000 in the United Kingdom..[1] Five years later, The Jet Li Collection DVD was released on 25 July 2005 at a 2 disc set including The Master.[2] In 2002, an edited version with a hip hop soundtrack was released on DVD in the US as Contract Killer.[3]


Derek Elley of Variety called it "an above-average blend of comedy and action".[4] Scott Hill of PopMatters

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haflidason, Almar. "Hitman DVD (1998)". BBC. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  2. ^ Willcock, Benjamin. "Review: Jet Li Collection, The (UK - DVD R2)". DVDactive. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  3. ^ Thill, Scott (2002-08-09). "Contract Killer (Sat sau ji wong) (1998)". PopMatters. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  4. ^ Elley, Derek (1998-12-09). "Review: ‘The Hitman’". Variety. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 

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