Who's on your list?
This one came out of left field. One day it was just sitting on store shelves and available online to buy. Out here in Australia we don't always get DTV films on time. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s 2009 movie Wrong Turn at Tahoe only came out in the second half of 2010 for us. Dolph Lundgren's Direct Contact took 18 months longer than the US to come out domestically and at one point we were at least two Seagal movies behind the UK. With The Hit List, the US only got a month head start on us.
Allan Campbell (Cole Hauser) is having a real bad day. He's in deep with a loan shark who has already given him a black eye and he has one more day to pay his debt, which he can do when he gets his promotion at work. Unfortunately he is passed over by the new kid Brian Felzner (Sean Cook) who has brown-nosed his way to the top. Going home depressed, Allan is hit with a double whammy when he discovers his wife sleeping with his best friend Mike (Drew Waters). Realising his day is turning into an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful, Allan goes to a bar to get drunk. After a few too many straight Jack Daniels, Allan meets Jonas Arbor (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a sick man with a bad cough who doesn't sympathise with Allan's predicament but is instead brutally honest about how he arrived there. He then tells Allan that he is a contract killer.
Allan laughs it off but Jonas insists it's true, and asks Allan to write a list of five people he would like killed if it were possible in a scene that somewhat echoes Strangers on a Train or The Designated Victim. Playing along with the game, Allan fills the list with all the obvious candidates - his boss (for passing over the promotion), the new kid (for stealing the promotion), the loan shark (for the black eye), his best friend who slept with his wife... and at number one on the list his wife Sydney (Ginny Weirick) for cheating on him. The next day Allan goes to work with a bad hangover and learns from colleagues that his boss was murdered the night before. Allan freaks and tries to find number four on the list before anything happens to him... and then find his wife.
This was really, really good. Probably one of my favourite DTV films of recent times. I really enjoyed being able to know the plot early on. Some people complain that a story like this is too obvious; following a too generic formula. I tend to complain when a movie is too complex for its own good. You know from the time that Allan and Jonas meet that Jonas has five people to kill on his list and it's just a matter of time before he makes it to number one. This plot device is refreshing to me in a way, and as the production on the film was relatively high it made for an exciting ride to an inevitable conclusion. Instead of wondering what will happen next, you know what will happen, but are left to wonder just how it will be carried out.
Cuba Gooding Jr. really proves that at one time he was worth an Academy Award here. Jonas is cold-blooded, calculated and crazy, and a great example of what a man could do when he no longer has any fear left. It's also a superb demonstration of twisted loyalties. I think Jonas actually believes he is helping Allan, even saying after knowing him for two hours that he is the best friend Allan will ever have. I guess that's true to an extent; killing for a friend is a pretty big deal. But really, Jonas has just gone a little nuts and is taking his frustrations out on the world, justifying himself by making the kills serve a purpose in someone else's life.
I'm not familiar with Cole Hauser but he was good in this too. Apparently I've seen him before as I've seen Pitch Black, but not since it came out. He does a really good job playing the ultimate man down on his luck sad case applied to a guy that's too nice to get angry (even his wife says they don't fight with passion anymore) and tries to reason with Jonas before he kills again and again. Also worth mentioning is Detective Neil McKay (Jonathan LaPaglia), the officer who is trying to put together all the pieces of the case and work out if Allan is actually the killer.
The action is pretty solid throughout as well. Obviously people get killed on the journey to the primary target, but not always as straight forward as could be imagined. There's a pretty sweet car chase that sees a cop car explode and the ending scene is very reminiscent of The Terminator. Cuba Gooding Jr. is no martial artist so it's guns and cars here only folks.
I read a review that said The Hit List was a poor man's Collateral. Now I've not seen that movie (it is a Tom Cruise movie after all, an actor I've never liked - no, not even Top Gun) but I don't see why a $6 million dollar budget action movie has to be compared as 'poor man's' to a movie that cost $65 million. I mean yeah I get it, technically it is the poor man's alternative being one-tenth of the cost of the Hollywood blockbuster but to use the term in a negative light isn't really needed when the film, in my opinion, is actually really good. You can say that Bloodfist is the poor man's Bloodsport, but don't compare DTV action to Tom Freaking Cruise.
This is good fun and worth your time, definitely. I wasn't even annoyed by the cinematography as there weren't any jump-cuts or speed ups to my knowledge (just a couple of flash backs). One of Cuba Gooding's upcoming movies is alongside none other than action hero Dolph Lundgren in the explosively titled "One in the Chamber", by the same director as the Hit List William Kaufman. Can't wait to see how those two get along in a movie together!
Just like most modern DTV action, sharp and clear HD sourced video and a thumping, explosive soundtrack. All good. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.
Region 4 DVD bought in store.