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Hired to Kill, the cult film from notorious Greek director, disgraced journalist and purveyor of bottom- of-the-barrel trash TV, Nico Mastorakis, cannot, for most viewers, be recommended in good conscience. A bargain bin clone of 1985’s Commando, Hired to Kill boasts performances bad enough to make even Arnie wince, forgettable action, and a ludicrous Zoolander-esque premise. An ex-commando type and seven colleagues unconvincingly pose as an effete fashion designer replete with seven beautiful (and deadly!) models – a daft concept that is sadly squandered by its own cringingly sexist and frequently homophobic execution.
And yet, in bad conscience, Hired to Kill almost garners recommendation, not the least because of the bizarre and joyous performance of Oliver Reed as the fictional Cypra’s despot, General Bartos. A soaking Reed finds himself as the villain of the piece, visibly drunk throughout, red-faced and volatile. One standout moment depicts Bartos mutter something to his table companion: with the unimpressed glance shot at Bartos combined with his own cheeky grin, one can’t help but wonder if we’re just witnessing Reed lewdly winding up his cast mates, captured on film for posterity and subsumed into his character. It could be called method acting if it wasn’t so close to actually derailing the picture: in the blu-ray’s new interview with Mastorakis, the director recalls Reed’s antics, particularly the moment in the climactic scene when instead of shooting at the heroes’ escaping helicopter as he was supposed to, Reed proceeded to urinate on the ground in full view of the cast and crew, all while being filmed.
Moments like this, on top of the scene where Reed full on snogs the steel-jawed hero, Frank Ryan (Brian Thompson) are almost enough make Hired to Kill worth the admission price. It’s a shame then, that the rest of Hired to Kill fails to live up to the high watermark set by the inebriate Reed. Much of the action is forgettable and rote, and while the endless shots of Ryan’s nubile recruits bending over in swimsuits are initially a source of ironic and puerile amusement, it’s not long before even they grate. Seven beautiful and deadly assassins hired to kill a high-profile political figure is exactly the sort of cheap trash that is the bread-and-butter inspiration for post-exploitation directors like Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rogriguez.
But unlike their Grindhouse riffs Death Proof and Planet Terror, or indeed the original 1978 The Inglorious Bastards, Hired to Kill suffers from a distinct lack of personality, both in its flat characters and uninspired execution. Still, Reed’s performance slaps at the film’s bland expression like a bar towel soaked in gin, and its coda, arguably Hired to Kill‘s best moment, is a cracking beat of comic timing, followed immediately by the most tonally askew end-of-credits song this side of First Blood. If its numerous flaws and rote execution can be overlooked, veteran fans of cheapo action trash will doubtlessly find something to love in Hired to Kill. For anyone else looking for simple Saturday-night thrills, sticking to its more famous genre brethren may be the better bet.
Christopher Machell | @MagnificenTramp