The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - HIRED TO KILL (1990) | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - HIRED TO KILL (1990)

A team of female mercenaries are hired to free a rebel leader on a small mediterranean island.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Nico Mastorakis, Peter Rader

Starring: Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, George Kennedy, Jose Ferrer

If you're easily offended, your tolerance for Hired to Kill will be severely tested, but pull on a thick skin and crack open a six pack (of the cheapest beer you can find; this movie isn't one to break out the Belgian premium stuff for) and you're in for a frankly hilarious ride.

The A-Team meets the F-word in Nico Mastorakis' 1990 action romp Hired to Kill, a largely forgotten relic of a more ignorant and innocent era resurrected by Arrow Video for a hi-def restoration the movie probably doesn't deserve.

Mastorakis' film boasts the sort of premise you just couldn't get away with today. A mercenary, Frank Ryan (Brian Thompson), is hired by a shadowy 'businessman' (George Kennedy) to free a rebel leader (Jose Ferrer) on a small, corrupt mediterranean island. To pull it off, Frank must pose as a gay fashion designer and accompany a team of six models, who are actually trained killers themselves. Why Frank must pretend to be gay ("A f*ggot?" he asks. "Yes, a f*ggot," replies Kennedy) is never quite made clear, other than this was shot at the tail end of the '80s when audiences still found this sort of thing amusing.

It's difficult to defend Hired to Kill from accusations of homophobia, yet it features a gay kiss between its musclebound lead, whose torso the camera enjoys lingering over throughout, and a corrupt dictator played by none other than Oliver Reed in a role that seems written explicitly for the notorious hellraiser. I'm not sure if this moment was scripted (oddly, it's never mentioned in either of the interviews included as extras on the disc), but Reed seems genuinely taken aback by Thompson's actions.

Mixed messages aside, Hired to Kill is a lot of trashy fun. It opens with its monosyllabic hero shooting his telephone after it wakes him up (he's sleeping on a couch, on a boat of course) - "I don't like mornings" - and continues in such outrageous fashion. The first act plays like a female remake of The Dirty Dozen as Ryan gathers together a half dozen trained female killers, few of whom are half as attractive as the film wants us to believe, though much of this is down to the awful late '80s hairstyles and outfits. He has history with one of them of course - they fought in Salvador; where else? - and the two trade barbs, with Ryan tossing off a series of misogynistic quips; "From Eve to Margaret Thatcher, women have been causing trouble!"

Thompson, who got the job because he was married to the director's daughter, is simply awful. You might know him as one of the three punks Arnie dispatches at the start of The Terminator, and here's he's very much a z-grade Schwarzenegger, all buzzcut and biceps. It won't surprise you to hear that Reed was intoxicated throughout the shoot, polishing off two bottles of champagne before breakfast every day, and he's clearly three sheets to the wind in all of his scenes here. Conversely, Kennedy and Ferrer are models of professionalism and add a touch of class the film really doesn't earn, the former essentially repeating the evil rancher character he was playing on TV's Dallas around this time.

The movie ends with a literally explosive climax in an action set-piece that shows Mastorakis wasn't simply a hack for hire. As with the opening scene of his 1986 effort The Zero Boys, it's well staged considering its budget, and there's some serious steadicam porn on display.

If you're easily offended, your tolerance for Hired to Kill will be severely tested, but pull on a thick skin and crack open a six pack (of the cheapest beer you can find; this movie isn't one to break out the Belgian premium stuff for) and you're in for a frankly hilarious ride.
Once again, Arrow have polished another turd and delivered a great set of special features, including the usual trailer, stills gallery and booklet. But the highlights are a pair of interviews, one with star Thompson, who comes off as every bit the misogynist his character was, and Mastorakis, who is always entertaining. Both men recount some amusing yet tragic anecdotes about the behaviour of Reed, and both get emotional over the death of stuntman Clint Carpenter, killed in a helicopter crash during filming.

Hired to Kill is released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Arrow Video May 16th

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