Allan Campbell (Cole Hauser) is having a very bad day. Passed over for promotion, he comes home to find his wife in apparent post-coital bliss with his (former) best friend. He moves into a hotel and heads for a local bar to drown his considerable sorrows. There, he meets Jonas Arbor (Cuba Gooding Jr), a disgruntled but none the less deadly assassin, who eventually persuades Campbell to scribble down a list of the five people he would like to have killed. Thinking it all to be a big joke and with his far from sharp wits further blunted by a steady stream of bourbon, Campbell assembles the list on a napkin. The next day, the bodies start to pile up and Campbell has a race on his hands to try to stop the killing before it reaches its conclusion with the death of his wife.


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.


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Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.