Hit List (1989) Film Review

VHS cover scan courtesy of retro-daze.org

Directed by: William Lustig
Category: Action/Thriller

This is a film that I'd been wanting to see for quite some time, yet was made difficult by the fact that it has never gotten a release outside of VHS and Laserdsic. And when I did come across it on these formats from time to time, they were always too expensive for me to spend on a blind buy not knowing if the film was really any good or not. But I do have to admit, that RCA VHS was always so attractive to me, so I always kept an eye out for it hoping I could come across one fairly cheap. And I eventually did.

While this wasn't as "awesome" as I was hoping for, it was still a very good thriller. There are things that work, and there are things that don't. Thankfully, the things that do work, work extremely well and make up for some of what the film lacks. Mainly what it lacks is substance. There were long stretches of time where nothing very interesting happened, yet it wasn't altogether boring either, if that makes sense. What does work in it's favor is the strong cast, Lustig's excellent visuals and a fantastic ending.

Starting with the cast, while I've always found Rip Torn to be just a flat-out odd actor, he comes across even more so in here where he tries to pull off an Italian gangster. And I'm aware of Jan Michael Vincent's reputation and substance abuse as much as the next guy, but considering Lustig had to shoot most of his scenes solo because he was just so out of it most of the time, I honestly couldn't tell. He seemed coherent enough, and I never once noticed he rarely ever shared the same shot with other actors. The guy who really steals the show in here though is Lance Henrikesen. While he seems to be one of the busiest actors in history, knocking out half a dozen films or shows a year, he always finds time to really go nuts with a character from time to time and in here, he gives us one of his most memorable, insane and most entertaining villains I've ever seen from him. Seriously. This movie is worth the watch just to see Lance play insane over the top psychotic hit man alone. Truth be told, it's Lance who ends up saving this film, making it a much better film overall than had someone else played the main bad guy role.

The action and stuntwork will definitely be a highlight for anyone who watches this, because it's what ultilmately drives the film. There are some nice sequences scattered throughout the film, but sadly, not as much as you would like. However, once the film hits it's third and final act, Hit List kicks into high gear delivering some outstanding action, stuntwork and car chases. I won't spoil it for you, except to say it's awesome and worth the investment.

William Lustig has not made a lot of films as a director, though he is a highly prolific producer. Of all the films he's made, he'll most likely be remembered as the director of such cult classics as the Maniac Cop trilogy, Vigilante and Maniac. I personally find him a highly underrated filmmaker. He has a very specific style when it comes to making films, a very gritty, yet stylized approach that give all of his films a very Lustig quality. I had always hoped he would direct more, or use his specific talents in the action/thriller genre, but it just seems that those weren't in the cards. I am glad that he did ultimately give us a handful of gems though. I just wish there were more.

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