As a cult movie fan and an avid collector of physical media, I feel we live in a fantastic time. We are getting definitive editions of all of the classic genre films and thanks to a number of dedicated companies, there are always a slew of new and upcoming releases to look forward to hopefully for many years to come. One of my favorite things about this current trend is when a company restores a lesser known hidden gem like Hired to Kill. This is a movie that I had not heard of until the recent release from Arrow Films and it is a new discovery from the golden era of action films that is silly fun and doesn't pretend to be anything else. I'm never going to complain when I am giving a premise featuring an elite team of women being trained as mercenaries and fashion models.
Tough guy Brian Thompson is cast against type in a hero role as a mercenary named Frank who is hired by George Kennedy to lead a unit onto the fictitious island of Cypra to rescue an imprisoned rebel leader (Jose Ferrer). Frank meets up with a woman named Sheila (Barbara Lee Alexander) and together they recruit the group of beautiful yet deadly women. There is an amazing extended training montage (a staple of 80s action) where the ladies learn to both walk the runway and blow shit up. They then put into motion the plan to infiltrate the fortress of dictator Michael Bartos (Oliver Reed) by having Frank pose as a gay fashion designer who is there to show off his new line with his stable of models in tow. Little does Bartos know that these models are more than just pretty faces. Before you know it, they are firing guns, running through the jungle, and doing their best to complete their mission and stay alive. Some may see this as a low-rent version of The Dirty Dozen but I look at it more like a high-rent version of Hustler Squad.
Thompson is great in this flick from the opening scene where he shoots the phone that wakes him up through to the final assault. I was a little skeptical as I know him best as the Night Slasher in Cobra and as an alien bounty hunter on early seasons of "The X-Files" but Thompson holds his own and the creative team made the wise choice to keep this character as a strictly business leader who has no time for things like feelings. Even when he has an awkward love scene with one of the ladies, it seems more like a task he has to complete rather than the emotional act of man who is falling in love (which he is clearly not). Despite his gruff and chauvinistic exterior, I enjoyed the scenes where he has to play up the 80s homosexual stereotype as it is the farthest thing I could imagine a character like this being comfortable with. The ladies also do really well with each of them establishing their own personalities and developing their characters so they are more than a bunch of generic bimbos These women are tough and the cigar chomping explosives expert (Kim Lonsdale) could hold her own against Fred Williamson if she had to.
Greek director Nico Mastrokis made a name for himself with the sleazy Greekspoitation flick Island of Death that is one of the notorious movies of the 70s. He then took on the 80s by making more standard low budget action movies like The Zero Boys and Sky High. From what I can tell, Hired to Kill is his biggest movie in both the budget and level of action and also the most enjoyable (in a trashy kind of way). This is a high on the cheese factor and surprisingly low on the skin quotient (with the exception of a couple of topless scenes from Michelle Moffett). Overall, a great 80s find and I'm grateful to Arrow for putting out flicks like this and the obscure Japanese crime movies alongside slightly "safer" releases like The Hills Have Eyes and Society. (Josh Pasnak, 11/1/16)
Directed By: Nico Mastorakis, Peter Rader.
Written By: Fred Perry, Kirk Ellis, Nico Mastorakis.
Starring: Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, George Kennedy, Michelle Moffett.