Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE HATCHET MAN


THE HATCHET MAN (1932). Director: William Wellman.

Wong (Edward G. Robinson) is a "hatchet man" or enforcer [or hit man] for his local Chinese Tong in Chinatown. He is at first horrified to discover that his next assignment is to kill a man who is his best and oldest friend, Sun [a superb J. Carroll Naish, who is nearly unrecognizable under his excellent make up]. Wong inherits Sun's wealth, business -- and daughter Toya (Loretta Young), who years later becomes his wife. Unfortunately, Toya develops a yen for her bodyguard. Robinson basically eschews Oriental make up, while Young does look somewhat Chinese. "Ming the Merciless" Charles Middleton has a part in this film, but I confess I didn't spot him. This film is interesting and different, has a clever ending, but its very morally ambiguous and we never learn how Toya would react if she learned exactly what happened when she was a child.

Verdict: Well-acted but not exactly a Chinese Godfather. **.

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