Pioneering Western martial artist turned movie star Chuck Norris continues to lose ground to the new generation with THE HITMAN, a tepid exercise in action adventure by the numbers.
Seattle cop Cliff Garret (Norris) is mortally wounded in a bust gone bad. He pulls through, but the department declares him dead and gives him a new identity, hit man Danny Grogan, then sends him under deep cover into the family of mafioso Marco Luganni (Al Waxman). The plan: Grogan is to bring
together Luganni and rival French Canadian crimelord Andre Lacombe (Marcel Sabourin) so both can be taken into custody together. Complicating matters is a gang of Iranian drug dealers looking to muscle into both gangsters' territories.
Grogan plays all parties against one another while befriending a fatherless boy, Tim Murphy (Salim Grant), who lives in the apartment down the hall. Grogan's past returns to haunt him in the person of opportunistic bad guy Ronny Delany (Michael Parks), who recognizes him as Garret and threatens
Tim in a bid to force Grogan to cooperate. Grogan triumphs, killing everyone who's crossed him and setting up Tim and his mother financially before he disappears into the night.
Chuck Norris has been an institution for so long it's hard to remember that he was once the great white hope of martial arts movies. Never much of an actor and not particularly handsome, for several years Norris was the only non-Asian martial arts star in movies; his fine physique and impressive
repertory of kicks, spins and throws carried him through a series of films whose stories unfolded with a numbing sameness. Now middle-aged, Norris still looks good but has cut the martial arts action in his movies to next to nothing, presumably in deference to his waning abilities. There's
precious little left to fill the void. In addition, a new generation of martial artists has coopted a substantial segment of Norris' audience. Though each has his own substantial limitations, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are all younger, better looking and more polished
Rather embarrassingly, THE HITMAN's story (by Robert Geoffrion and Don Carmody) starts out in a manner reminiscent of Seagal's MARKED FOR DEATH, in which a policeman is wounded and believed dead by all but a small group of high-ranking officers. It soon takes off in a different direction, though
not a particularly interesting one. THE HITMAN doesn't work as a thriller, since the viewer knows Grogan will prevail (Norris's characters don't lose ... ever), and his intentions are never in question: he's an unequivocal good guy. The film's action is mediocre, insufficient to camouflage its
other flaws. For comparison, one should look to Lundgren's SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO and THE PUNISHER. Both films are unsubtle and formulaic, but their inventive, nonstop action sequences compensate for these deficiencies. Directed by Norris's brother, Aaron, THE HITMAN is a disappointing film,
even within the limited parameters of the action-adventure genre. (Violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Pioneering Western martial artist turned movie star Chuck Norris continues to lose ground to the new generation with THE HITMAN, a tepid exercise in action adventure by the numbers. Seattle cop Cliff Garret (Norris) is mortally wounded in a bust gone bad… (more)