DVD/Blu Ray

Heroes and Villains: Three Films Starring Jet Li (18) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Corey Yuen, Ching Siu-Tung, Stephen Tung, Hong Kong, 1995, 1996, 1998, 104, 91, 104 mins, audio options

Cast: Jet Li, Anita Mui, Miao Xie, Rosamund Kwan, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Simon Yam, Eric Tsang

Review by Colin Dibben

Jet Li’s screen persona of quiet, self-effacing strength is in the headlights in this collection of 3 Hong Kong action films from the 1990s. The Enforcer is one of the best HK action films of the era; Dr Wai in The Scripture with No Words is lots of fun and packed with odd moments; Hitman puts Li’s bashful Everyman with kickass martial arts skills through another satisfying workout.

In The Enforcer, aka My Father is a Hero, Li plays Kung, a mainland China police officer who leaves his pre-teen young son (Miao Xie) and ill wife to go undercover in Hong Kong. When he takes part in a violent guns-and-bombs raid, he comes to the notice of HK police inspector Fong (the late, great Anita Mui). She travels to China to get his back story and teams up with his martial arts prodigy son to save dad from the gang he is embroiled with.

What’s so great about The Enforcer is the range of tones on display, over and above the great action sequences: it is sentimental, grimy, glossy, tragic by turns. The family drama element allows for both Li and Mui to put in proper performances – and Xie, who has gone on to great things, recently playing Ip Man, is a tough mini-cookie too.

One of the most surprising elements here are the fighting sequences between Xie and assorted adult thugs. In one, he gets his face smashed through a glasstop table and we see a shot of him with broken glass in his face. Gnarly!

The other 2 films are slight letdowns, it must be said.

Dr Wai in The Scripture with No Words is the story of Chow (Li), a successful writer of series fiction for a newspaper. Chow gets writer’s block when his wife (Kwan) leaves him. And so his supportive juniors, Shing (Kaneshiro) and Yvonne (Charlie Yeung) help to write the latest Dr Wai adventure, which we then see as a film within the film, starring the actors from the framing narrative.

Dr Wai is a sort of Chinese Indiana Jones, battling the Japanese in the 1930s, and there are some nice set piece action sequences, including one with a runaway train and the final fight with a demon in an ancient shrine. It’s a good watch but doesn’t have the deep wow factor of The Enforcer. Perhaps the size of the supporting cast just overwhelms that quiet intensity that makes Li’s persona as an actor so special?

That is certainly the case with Hitman, aka Contract Killer. Li is great when he is the on-screen focus but there is way too much arsing about by Eric Tsang who plays the “loveable rogue” who employs refugee Fu (Li) – because of his special fighting skills – to try to cash in on a contract killing. Li even has to share the action scenes with Simon Yam, who plays a Batman style vigilante. Again, there are some very satisfying fight sequences and also some realist touching scenes that focus on Fu’s background. But they get washed away in some sub-James Bond hijinks.

All in all, this set is worth seeing. It is the first time the films have been on Blu-ray in the UK and they look engaging at all times, whether they are going for gritty, fantastic or 90s hi-tech.


Heroes and Villains: Three Films Starring Jet Li is out on Limited Edition Blu-ray on 20 November.