From 1976’s Island of Death to 2002’s .com for Murder, journeyman director Nico Mastorakis put out films on an average of one-per-year, mostly low-budget action films, but branching out into low-budget comedies, low-budget thrillers, low-budget horror, and low-budget erotic thriller. Never managing to shape Hollywood from its B-movie outskirts in the way that a director like John Carpenter was able to, still he was competent enough to outshine the likes of, say, Albert Pyun. His 1990 effort, Hired to Kill, is a curious mash-up of a Commando-style action picture, a wacky mistaken-for-gay comedy, and a softcore/women-in-prison exploitation flick, and is about to see rerelease from Arrow Video.
The Film Itself
Right from its opening, Hired to Kill doesn’t fuck around. Mercenary Frank Ryan (Brian Thompson, who was one of the punks killed at the start of The Terminator, along with Bill Paxton) is awoken by a ringing bedside telephone, and promptly shoots that sucker with a hand cannon. Next thing, CIA agents are beating down his door. They need him to go to a tiny Greek island in order to overthrow a cruel dictator played, in a piece of casting equally fortuitous and depressing, by a past-it Oliver Reed. The thing is, for reasons that still aren’t totally clear to me, the only way it will be possible to infiltrate is for Ryan to pose as a gay fashion designer, with a bevy of beautiful women who are actually hard-as-nails sorts recruited like a female Dirty Dozen – this does not preclude them from being the sorts of beauties one might see prance around in a Duran Duran video, and it certainly doesn’t preclude lingering cheesecake shots. The scheme leads to Oliver Reed’s only onscreen gay kiss, and for that, if nothing else, the picture should be remembered. Otherwise, it may offer diversions for die-hard fans of action cinema, or those in search of a piece of camp (“Murder, blood, and paranoia are going to make fine company where you’re going!”).
Audio and Visuals
Like every Arrow release, the original has been polished up and restored in 4K; however, with a picture this flat it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference. You might even find yourself wishing for the authenticity of VHS distortion. The sound hasn’t fared too well either, though that is more the fault of some haphazard sound-mixing work on the original.
The box will certainly make you want to guzzle a beer and chomp a cigar before putting in the Blu-Ray, and the menu is attractive and easy to navigate, too.
The set of extras collected here are unusually light for an Arrow release. Aside from the expected stills gallery and theatrical trailer, there is “Hired to Direct”, a wittily-titled interview with director Mastorakis, who is likeable enough, if you can get through his thick Greek accent. “Undercover Mercenary” is a catch-up with star Brian Thompson, who remembers all he can about the film. The best feature is an audio commentary with editor Barry Zetlin, who talks at length about not only Hired to Kill, but also the entire catalogue of “B”s he edited, among them Galaxy of Terror, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.
There’s no way that Hired to Kill can be considered the “essential 90s action” that its press release hypes it as, but for red-blooded males it will offer enough enjoyment to sit through at least twice. However, at £17.99 for the Arrow Blu-Ray it might be prudent to skip the special features entirely and wait for a bargain-bin DVD copy.
Hired to Kill is out now, will you be buying yourself a copy? Let us know in the comment box below!