Hired to Kill (1990) – DVD and Blu-Ray Review

There are some films that that have a premise that just seems to boggle the mind. Hired to Kill is the epitome of these films.

The film was released in 1990 and featured Brian Thompson as Frank Ryan (no known relation to Jack Ryan of the Tom Clancy books, but a similar background nonetheless) who is hired by an inconspicuous man working for a shady arm of the American Government (represented by George Kennedy) to locate and rescue the leader of a rebel militia in the exotic country of Cypra, by posing as a world famous fashion designer and infiltrating the militaristic regime with his group of stunningly beautiful female models/mercenaries.

Being a product of the (very) early 90’s, the film shows all the hallmarks of a cheap 80’s B-movie, so much so that you can almost hear the scriptwriter’s desk straining beneath the weight of the “Big Book of 1980’s Action Film Tropes and Clichés.” Everything you could want or need is in here: Muscular male protagonist with hints at an army past? Check! Scantily clad females who parade around in less fabric than a thread-bare G-string? Indeed! Casual misogyny and mildly homophobic comments that would make a modern audience feel slightly uncomfortable? You bet your sweet ass there is sugar tits!

Some (but definitely not all!) of these stereotypes would have been acceptable if the actors had been given a script that didn’t sound so incredibly clunky and talk almost exclusively in pseudo-menacing Bond-esque one liners, each one trying to outdo the last. One could almost argue that it is a masterpiece in how not to write a script, if you could forgive many of the sexist comments and general stoic brooding that ensues from the actors.

Whilst the script is abysmal, and the actors don’t really seem completely into it, there is a very talented cast within the film. Oliver Reed (he of Gladiator and The Three Musketeers fame) plays Dictator Michael Bartos, the film’s antagonist, and José Ferrer (Lawrence of Arabia) is the imprisoned revolutionary leader. Both play their parts admirably, albeit with Reed suffering a mild case of “Bad Accent Syndrome” from time to time. On the other side of the gender scale are the lovely ladies, seemingly picked (for the most part) for their looks rather than their acting talent. They appear in the film predominantly as eye-candy, and, with the exception of Barbara Niven and Jordana Capra, don’t really perform all that well.

Finally, we must arrive at the staple point of all action films, the final dramatic, explosion-filled shootout. Once again, there is plenty left to be desired within this scene; it steadily becomes harder and harder to ascertain which side is shooting at whom and the repeatedly over the top shooting feats of the protagonists become almost strained to the point of no return.

Hired to Kill is a film that attempts to find some form of refuge in audacity, yet ultimately fails at every turn due to a combination of terrible scripting, lacklustre acting and a yearning desire to be the new Rambo. I’m sure this film will skirt the borders of many people’s “so bad, it’s good” lists, but it doesn’t really deserve the recognition, although it may almost be worth a watch, just to appreciate how truly terrible it is.


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