Jet Li, one of the biggest stars in the history of martial arts cinema, came to international prominence with the ‘Once Upon A Time in China’ series, which turned out to be massively popular. However, despite the film’s success, Li decided to turn his back on period flicks and instead focus on modern-day action films (a decision which presented him with equal success, if not more). Three of these martial arts action films are now available for the first time ever in the UK in a 3-disc Blu-ray set.

THE ENFORCER (also known as MY FATHER IS A HERO, 1995) is part action film, part family drama directed by Corey Yuen. Set in the People’s Republic of China, Li plays undercover police officer Kung Wei, who teaches his eight-year old son Ku Kung (Moi Tse) the tricks of the trade in all matter martial arts. Watching young Moi Tse in action is just as mind-boggling as watching Jet Li in action – and if you watch him then you’ll know how his moniker ‘Jet’ came about. Yes, he’s that fast! Neither Kung Wei’s son nor his sick wife (who suffers from severe asthma) are aware that he’s an undercover cop – something he’s so far managed to keep a secret. Whatever he does officially, it doesn’t earn him enough money to get the necessary medical treatment for his wife. Poor little Ku Kung tries his best to make his Mum better with a special ant soup (yes, really). The daily routine is brought into disarray when Kung Wei is assigned to spy on a group of Hong Kong terrorists. In order to carry out the task, he must join forces with a former gang member called Darkie (Blackie Ko) who in turn is an ex-member of gangster Po Kwong’s (Yu Rongguang) gang. Infiltrating Po’s gang, Kung Wei finds himself in serious trouble when a plan to steal bombs from the criminals goes pear-shaped and attracts the attention of Anne Fong (the late Anita Mui), an off-duty detective from Hong Kong, who is in a relationship with Inspector Cheng (Damian Lau). From then on, Kung Wei’s life gets increasingly complicated, especially when Moi Tse attempts to track down his Dad after Mum dies of an asthma attack. This brings the boy in mortal danger and Kung Wei, in order to save the undercover mission, must pretend that he doesn’t know who the ‘little pest’ actually is. Well, for starters he’s a brave fighter in his own right though he has to endure a fair bit of beatings (Western child safeguarding policies would never allow such scenes). As can be expected, the pace here is relentless (so is the violence) though once in a while, human emotions come to the forefront and surprisingly, we’re even treated to some laughs.

MR. WAI – THE SCRIPTURE WITH NO WORDS from 1996 (Dir: Ching Siu-tung) is a very different beast altogether and really, it’s the odd one out among this ‘Heroes and Villains’ collection, blending reality with fantasy in an Indiana Jones style adventure which come in two different versions (this review is for the original Hong Kong one). Jet Li takes on the role of contemporary pulp serial author Chow Si-kit (aka Dr. Wai, the Adventure King) who suffers from writer’s block – triggered thanks to his wife Monica (Rosamund Kwan) having it off with his boss. Thankfully, Chow has his loyal assistants Yvonne (Charlie Yeung) and Shing (Takeshi Kaneshiro) at hand who kick him into action, if only to prove to his wife that he can be tough and strong in real life too. The most entertaining sequences are the ones in which Chow escapes into a fantasy world by taking on the part of his own literary creation Dr. Wai who, together with his assistants, is searching for a mythical scripture. Cue for a rollicking opening scene in which a gigantic metallic ox on wheels (pulled by countless underdogs) creates total mayhem, with the mad operator inside it setting the tone of things to come…and they come thick and fast!

Finally, HITMAN (Dir: Stephen Tung, 1998) sees Jet Li in top form as Fu, a naïve and inexperienced hitman in training who, on the other hand, is an accomplished martial arts fighter. The action starts in Hong Kong where wealthy (and misogynistic) former Yakuza crime boss Tsukamoto (Sahara Kenji) is murdered by a mysterious hitman only known as the ‘King of Killers’. In foresight, Tsukamoto had set up a ‘revenge fund’ in case of his (highly likely) assassination… and now a bounty of $100 million dollars is placed on the King of Killer’s head. One of the bounty hunters is Eiji (Sato Keiji), the power-hungry grandson of Tsukamoto who not only crowns himself as the new head of the clan but swallows his grandpa’s ashes - so that Tsukamoto’s questionable power will be transferred to him. Talk about a twisted mind. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Fu, an ex-soldier, is broke and scraping by - the scene in which he challenges a supermarket assistant to give him the correct change is priceless. When Fu gets wind regarding the bounty on offer he (initially unsuccessfully) tries to gate-crash the very meeting in which Tsukamoto’s lawyers are setting up the terms of the revenge fund, led by the extremely bent Martin (Kwong Kim Yip). An altercation occurs during which Fu needs to make full use of his martial arts skills and in the process, shady yet ultimately cowardly small-time gangster Lo (brilliant: Eric Tsang) takes note of him. Never one for missing a trick in the book, Lo, who also tries to identify and eliminate the mysterious ‘King of Killers’ in order to get his dirty hands on the reward, ‘hires’ Fu to become his assistant, knowing full well that due to his own physical unfitness, he could never take on the local Yakuza gang members. Along the way, Lo’s attractive and long-suffering daughter Kiki (Gigi Leung), an accomplished lawyer fed up with having to bail out her Dad whenever he’s in trouble (and he’s always in trouble), slowly comes to realise that Fu’s claim that he knows Lo from time together in prison is a lie. Frustratingly, Fu and Lo are told by Inspector Chan (Simon Yam) to stay out of the chase for the ‘King of Killers’ as it’s a job for the Hong Kong police. Of course, they do exactly the opposite. Soon, all hell breaks loose in this very slick action adventure, which has the right amount of humour and an unbeatable on-screen chemistry between Jet Li and Eric Tsang.

Each disc offers plenty of bonus material including various audio options (original language is Cantonese) and newly translated subtitles. The first print run of this cracking release is presented in a Limited Edition O-card slipcase and booklet.