Cuba Gooding Jr has been in the wilderness for what seems like a lifetime. Since bagging a well-deserved Oscar for showing us the money in Jerry Maguire (which itself followed up impressive work in everything from Boyz N The Hood to Gladiator, A Few Good Men and Outbreak), he has somewhat lost his way. He was good in As Good As It Gets, but nonsense like Boat Trip, Snow Dogs and Daddy Day Camp have made scant use of his considerable talents. Here he gets to play a clearly very ill, but still ruthless and dangerous hit-man and his apparent amorality is well conveyed. He demonstrates a dead-eyed relentlessness that although at odds with many of his previous roles remains thoroughly convincing.
Cole Hauser’s casting is intriguing and successful too. Having seen him generally skew on the tougher side in Pitch Black, Tigerland and 2 Fast 2 Furious, it’s quite a treat to see him so convincingly portray a down-trodden weakling, burying his considerable physicality beneath hunched shoulders and a well-judged black eye that he carries throughout the sensibly brief running time. Jonathan LaPaglia (younger brother of Without A Trace’s Anthony) appears as a policeman trying to make sense of Hauser’s involvement with Gooding Jr and having not seen him in anything since TV’s Seven Days, it was good to see that his combination of everyday charm and persuasive charisma is still keeping him in gainful employment.
Unfortunately for The Hit List, though each of the principals are great in their respective roles, the film as a whole struggles to escape the limitations of its obvious DTV roots. As noted earlier, the running time is commendably brief and therefore there is little or no time for the pacing to sag, but there is also little to really feel very strongly about either. Though there is some sympathy elicited for Hauser’s put-upon Campbell, as his day goes from bad to worse and he conveys concern, then mounting panic in a believable manner, we never really care about any of the victims, nor get enough of a handle on Arbor and his reasons for going off-piste. It is all explained towards the end, but by then Arbor has already settled in our minds as a cypher, a plot device and so there is no strong feeling one way or another as each character’s fate unfolds in the admittedly well-staged finale.
The film as a whole is all very competently put together, but I guess competence is not good enough these days, hence the DVD/BluRay debut. Certainly it is heaps better than all manner of dross that does find its way to a theatrical release (Vampires Suck and Epic Movie most immediately spring to mind) and that fact remains an injustice for perfectly serviceable projects such as this one, but it goes to show that good actors (and acting) plus an intriguing premise do not a top-drawer film make. A satisfying enough way to spend 85 minutes then, but the quote “Collateral with a pyschological twist” on the DVD sleeve only serves to remind us that this sort of thing has been done better before.
You can rent or buy The Hit List from 6th June, from LoveFilm or elsewhere.
DVD Extras: None. Poor.