"He aims to please." Well, he misses. Based on Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis, the same novel adapted into the superior British crime thriller GET CARTER (1971), this blaxploitation version is slow, dull, and badly written, but manages to depict a convincingly seedy Los Angeles criminal milieu. Tyrone Tackett (Bernie Casey) arrives in town for the funeral...read more
"He aims to please." Well, he misses. Based on Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis, the same novel adapted into the superior British crime thriller GET CARTER (1971), this blaxploitation version is slow, dull, and badly written, but manages to depict a convincingly seedy Los Angeles criminal
Tyrone Tackett (Bernie Casey) arrives in town for the funeral of his brother Cornell, who drowned after crashing his car through a railing. Trying to determine if Cornell was murdered, Tyrone gets no help from Cornell's belligerent ex-girlfriend, nor from his aloof daughter Rochelle (Candy All).
As he travels through different levels of the criminal underworld he is warned off by some low-rent thugs and romanced by lusty women, including aspiring porn star Gozelda (Pam Grier). Ultimately, Gozelda brings him to see one of her films, in which Cornell's daughter Rochelle also appears. It
turns out that Rochelle was forced to take part, and when Cornell found out and raised a stink, he was killed. When Tyrone discovers Rochelle has now been murdered also, he takes his revenge by killing one of the men responsible and laying the blame on another, so the tommygun-toting pals of the
dead man massacre the rest of the cast. In the end, a corrupt cop who has been hired to wipe out Tyrone gets him in his sights, just as a radio broadcast announces the death of the man who put out the contract; the cop packs up and cancels the hit.
HIT MAN has very little going for it. The exposition is awful, the tangled relationships confusing, and there are too many sketchily drawn characters. Even the sound is miserable, so that when Tyrone and a friend get drunk and start mumbling, any semblance or coherence goes out the window. All
women are sluts, only good for sleeping with or slapping around. Even Rochelle, the young girl whose defilement started the whole ball rolling, is a bitchy nonentity who fails to generate anything remotely resembling sympathy. Female nudity is abundant and gratuitous, with Pam Grier prominent in
an early role. Second-billed (as Pamela Grier), she doesn't show up until half an hour into the story, and then promptly disappears again until the one-hour mark. Wearing a ragged, oversize afro (and little else), she tells Tyrone that Rochelle was "one of them nice girls. We had to get her drunk
and slap her around to get her clothes off." Tyrone responds by stuffing her in his car trunk and letting her out on a game preserve, to be eaten by lions.
Bernie Casey, a former football player who put in six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, was one of the wave of black athletes to invade the screen in the late 1960s/early 1970s, along with the likes of Ken Norton (boxing), Jim Kelly (competition martial arts), Pam Grier's cousin Rosey Grier,
Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and even O.J. Simpson (all football). Arguably the most accomplished screen presence of the bunch, Casey went on to win Best Actor at the Jamaica Black Film Festival for MAURIE (1974). In HIT MAN he scowls a lot, treats both friends and foes like dirt, wears great cheesy
threads, and recites lines like, "Look you two-for-a-nickel jive street whore, Cornell was too hip to get off like dat. Tell me who killed him."
The East LA locations and authentically gritty atmosphere are the real stars. Cinematographer Andrew Davis worked on a number of low-budget exploitationers (COOL BREEZE, PRIVATE PARTS, THE SLAMS), before making his own independent feature STONY ISLAND (1978) and moving on to become a respected
action director (UNDER SIEGE, THE FUGITIVE). Oft lauded for his "evocative use of urban locations," he moves the action from an actual pitbull fight-to-the-death in a warehouse, to a rundown hot-sheets motel, to a confrontation in the shadow of the Watts tower. This, along with the mind-boggling
fashions and hairdos, at least gives the audience something to look at as the characters spout endless bad dialogue at one another while meandering--ever so slowly--toward the final outburst of violence.
(Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)
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