Looking at the amount of money it has made in the ten years since release, the chances are reasonably high that you haven’t seen this film. If I were you, I’d look into fixing that.
Jeez, has it been two weeks already? I am now one twenty-sixth of the way through this daft plan. I’m feeling good about finishing, but a little encouragement goes a long way. I’m just saying. Anyway, let’s get on with it.
The Hit List
Don’t get drunk with strangers.
That’s the lesson here today, kids. When you catch your wife with your friend and go off to drown your sorrows be careful who you get chatting to, as they might be a government assassin who persuades you to make a list of the five people you most want dead…
Thus begins the worst 36 hours(ish) of Allan Campbell’s life. He’s already been passed over for a promotion he was all but promised; add in the whole wife/friend snafu and he’s not in the best mental place. He meets a man named Jonas Arbor at the bar he ends up at and they get talking. From what Jonas says, Allan assumes he’s a therapist of some sort. Even after Jonas tells him that he’s a professional killer, he thinks Jonas is joking around. Allan thinks that making the list is just some kind of catharsis, but Jonas is deadly serious (I really am very sorry, but I just couldn’t let that one go). When Allan gets back from the mens’ room Jonas and the list have vanished. Soon after, people start turning up dead.
This is a solid little straight-to-DVD thriller with Cole “son of Wings” Hauser as Allan and Cuba “son of Cuba” Gooding, Jr. as Jonas. I admit I haven’t been keeping up with Cuba’s recent career in this niche but he does the terminally-ill badass quite convincingly here. Don’t worry, I’m not giving away any spoilers. The character is set up to be on his way out from the very first shot. Hauser also does a good job as the guy whose entire life has gone to shit all at once. The movie also features a very extravagant title sequence, all flying concentric circles and spirals of dancing Kalashnikovs (it’s actually quite a bit cooler than I make it sound). A bit Bondesque, really.
There isn’t really anything new on display here unfortunately. The film it most reminded me of is Collateral. You’ve got the ruthless assassin, the ordinary guy caught up in it, five people to kill with Ordinary Guy’s love interest as the last name on the list… Shit, Cuba’s even wearing the same grey suit as his old buddy Tom. There are worse people to rip off than Michael Mann though. The police station climax could almost be a direct lift from The Terminator as well, and the number of allegedly well-trained police officers this supposedly dying man leaves in his wake does stretch credibility just a tad.
If you’re looking for a Friday night rental and you don’t mind a few derivative story beats, you could do a lot worse than The Hit List. If a good film is an absence of anything bad, then this is a good film. I know that seems like a very back-handed compliment, but I like did quite like this. It was not a waste of my afternoon. Will Kaufman is a good technical film director. Unlike some of the young guys coming up in the indies*, he understands the geography of a scene and knows where to put the camera so that you never feel lost, in terms of who is where and who is doing what. He’s not a show-off. On the strength of this, I’m quite tempted to check out his earlier flick, Saints and Sinners. If it’s any good, I’ll let you know.
*I’m looking at you, Rufus Chaffee. I gave Divine Intervention two minutes and that was two minutes too damn long.