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The Hatchet Man

The Hatchet Man
Movie: The Hatchet Man(1932)[tt0022979] San Francisco Tong hatchet man Wong must execute his boyhood friend Sun. Sun knew his time was up and wrote out his will just prior to Wong showing up at his door. When Sun realizes Wong is there to kill me he tries to set his friend's mind at ease by telling him he is the beneficiary of all Sun's worldly possessions and convinces Wong to promise to take care of Sun's young daughter, Toya San who Sun has bequeathed to become his wife. Years later, when she becomes of age, she marries Wong, now a powerful figure, though she loves evil Harry. When Wong learns Toya will be happier with Harry he allows them to leave. Still later Wong learns that Harry has been deported and since Toya could not prove she was married to someone else she too was deported to China. When Wong learns of this, he goes after them. Written byEd Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>
Title The Hatchet Man
Release Date 5 September 1932 (UK)
Runtime
Genres Crime, Drama
Production Companies First National Pictures
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson...
Wong Low Get...
Loretta Young
Loretta Young...
Sun Toya San...
Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges...
Nog Hong Fah...
Leslie Fenton
Leslie Fenton...
Harry En Hai...
Edmund Breese
Edmund Breese...
Yu Chang...
Tully Marshall
Tully Marshall...
Long Sen Yat...
J. Carrol Naish
J. Carrol Naish...
Sun Yat Ming (as...
Charles Middleton
Charles Middleton...
Lip Hop Fat...
E. Alyn Warren
E. Alyn Warren...
Soo Lat, the Cobbler...
Edward Peil Sr.
Edward Peil Sr....
Bing Foo (as Edd...

Reviews

mmallon4 on 3 May 2019
In the beginning of The Hatchet Man, the Chinese community ("Yellow residents" as the opening crawl refers to them as) of San Francisco circa 1918 are a parallel society to the majority of America. However, fast forward to 1932 and the community has moved beyond the Tong wars of the past to a more Americanized and western way of life in which many of the old ways are dismissed such as foot binding and women having less freedom. - Meanwhile, elders in the community hold onto their more old fashioned ways. Instead, we see a community which is becoming integrated into wider society and there are even signs of interracial relationships with mixed couples seen in the dance hall sequence in one of the more insightful films about the oriental to come from this era.The Hatchet Man is another pre-code William Wellman gem in which the production values, extensive camerawork, and detail in the sets are second to none. The graphic ending is one of the best in pre-code cinema but the scene which I feel best shows of the craftsmanship present in The Hatchet Man is that early in the film in which Wong (Edward G. Robinson) has to kill his best friend and blood brother Sun Yat Ming (J Carroll Nash). At the beginning of this lengthy and slow-paced scene, Sun is finishing writing a will to Wong under the fear that he will be killed by a Tong ("The one I am expecting comes through doors without knocking"). Sun is leaving Wong all his worldly goods and his daughter to become his wife when she is of legal age. Soon Wong arrives and after many gaps in the slowly delivered dialogue with calming Chinese music in the background, the camera does an epic zoom on Robinson as he delivers the fatal line "I am the hatchet man of the Lem-Sing Tong".The one drawback of The Hatchet Man is the casting of Edward G Robinson; he isn't fully convincing in the role of Wong Low Get. Sometimes he looks Asian which his epicanthic fold but not always, not to mention he doesn't sound particularly Asian which his Eastern European accent. That said if you can suspend your disbelief at Robinson playing an oriental, you're still left with a performance with the intensity you would expect from Robinson. Otherwise, it's hard to tell in the cast who is Asian and who is a white actor in makeup. Loretta Young is far more convincing in her role as Wong's adopted daughter Sun Toya San. Wong's romantic relationship with his adopted daughter raises many eyebrows from today's standards not is it ever made clear if she knows this is the man who killed her own father, but this just makes the odd relationship all the more fascinating. Leslie Fenton, on the other hand, is the film's big scene-stealer as the slim ball villain Harry while Toshia Mori (who was originally to play Loretta Young's role) as Wong's secretary is a very striking screen presence.There is much less focus in Hollywood cinema of Chinese-American gangsters as opposed to Italian-American gangsters; a shame since it's a fascinating underworld with it prevalent theme of honor.

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