Stars: Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, George Kennedy, José Ferrer, Michelle Moffett, Barbara Niven, Jordana Capra, Kendall Conrad, Kim Lonsdale, Jude Mussetter, Penelope Reed, David Sawyer, Angela Gerekou | Written by Fred Perry, Kirk Ellis | Directed by Nico Mastorakis
What would you think if I pitched a version of The Magnificent Seven to you, but the seven were women? In the days when we are looking at a female Ghostbusters (not a bad thing) you’d probably nod and think it was a good idea (or complain). Fact is, it has already been made decades ago and directed by Nico Mastorakis. Hired to Kill is an interesting cult gem, so it’s no wonder Arrow Video have released it on Blu-ray.
Mercenary Frank Ryan (Brian Thompson) is tasked with taking out a South American dictator, and freeing a revolutionary leader by the CIA. Knowing that the countries ruler, Michal Bartos’ (Oliver Reed) weakness is women he goes in undercover as a fashion designer, with a group of deadly female assassins.
If you are looking for a film celebrating the strength of the female characters you may at first be disappointed by what you see. The Frank Ryan character is a misogynistic ape, and the Oliver Reed one is pretty much everything you would expect from a stereotypical Reed character. This does make it a film that is “of its time” for part of the movie, until we see a softening of Ryan as he becomes more human and less of a heartless killer.
Looking past the limitations of the characters, once we get into the final third of the film the strength of the female characters does become more of a focus, and when the pretence of the fashion shoots is gone, we get down to them being badass killers who take control. In some ways this does take away a certain aging of the film, especially on how the women are viewed and shows them for the strong characters that they are, pushing Brian Thompson’s Frank Ryan into the shadow somewhat, which is obviously the intention.
The inclusion of Brian Thompson in Hired to Kill as the hero of the film is one that feels strange for anybody who has seen him in his many bad guy roles. These range from films like Cobra, The Terminator, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and even television roles such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which he played Luke and The Judge. He plays a bad guy well, so seeing him as a hero is feels surprising.
I will admit though that my real reason for watching this film was Oliver Reed, and while he plays his part in the movie well, it is in the special features included on the disc where you get the real meaty Reed stories. At the height of his infamy as a hell raiser, it appears working with him on this film was a bit of a nightmare. For fans who know of his escapes it makes for very interesting watching.
The special features for the film (including the Oliver Reed Stories) include a commentary track with film editor Brian Thompson, who talks about his varied career, which included this movie. Interviews are included with Nico Mastorakis and Brian Thompson where they talk about the making of the film. It’s interesting to see Thompson talk about the film, and how much of a nice guy he comes across as.
With Nico Mastorakis’ The Zero Boys just been released by Arrow Video, Hired to Kill makes a good companion piece, showing the range the director has. This one manages to keep on the more serious side of action, though it still has that unique Mastorakis feel and has a mandatory level of cheese. This includes an interesting kiss between Oliver Reed and Brian Thompson which is a scene which is a must see for its…. intensity. Hired to Kill may be a movie of its time, but with a strong female cast its one that stands out as something a little different in a sea of cheesy action films.
Hired to Kill is out on dual format DVD and Blu-Ray now.