There is a podcast I listen to called The Lair of the Unwanted that focuses on B movies and cult films. Between segments, hosts Jason Soto and Scott Nolahn create fake trailers. One of them featured fashion consultant Tim Gunn as a trained mercenary hired to take out the terrorists. It’s a very clever few minutes of audio which you can hear on their episode for Gamera 3. The basic plot for Hired to Kill sounds like a fake trailer itself. A mercenary posing as a famous fashion designer goes to a South America with an army of women soldiers posing as models. Their mission is to free a rebel leader from hostile terrorists.
Remember Mia Wallace describing the show Fox Force Five to Vincent Vega at Jack Rabbit Slim's in Pulp Fiction. Hired to Kill would have been that show’s first movie if it was ever got picked up and became a hit. It’s too bad the women in this movie are not as memorable as the characters in that fictional sitcom. There is a long sequence where Frank Ryan (Brian Thomson) is recruiting women for the mission and you get a few back stories about their personas. One lady worked for the government but was sent to jail to protect their covert operation. Another one got psychologically damaged after she was kidnapped by an extremist group and now doesn’t talk. Of course, we have the one woman who remembers our main character before this mission and will be our love interest. Which has me asking, why was there a romance subplot in this. I never saw either woman’s story get fully resolved and it had me asking, why was it even used in the first place?
Back in 1987, having a team of female action heroes would seem revolutionary. The only female action hero I can think of at that time was Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. It makes sense that producers would want to exploit this market by having a group of women kicking ass. However, you better also make them attractive supermodels so you can still target a male demographic. I’m not trying to say this needed to be all P.C. with its premise because I love it. I just wish the women were fully engaging characters instead of just being a plot device. I would love to see a woman remake this movie, and have the story remain the same but add some more depth to the lady characters.
For an action movie, there really isn’t that much going on. In a 90-minute feature, you only really have 30 of those dedicated to any real fight scene. Most of the film’s running time is spent on the team getting close enough to Bartos (Oliver Reed) so they can invade the camp. There is one section where Frank is trying to sneak into Bartos’ office that was very distracting. Instead of concentrating on him getting a particular file, it kept cutting back and forth to this belly dancer. What did one have to do with the other. It wasn’t a cool visual, it was just annoying.
The only scene that made me laugh was when Bartos asked if Frank (as the fashion mogul) finds his wife attractive. Playing into the notion that all fashion designers are gay, Frank stays in character and kisses him. The love scene between Frank and the one girl I mentioned earlier was also funny because it just showed individual close-ups of their faces with them just grunting. If it wasn't a sex scene, I could swear they were doing something just as personal and private in their own bathrooms.
Hired to Kill had the potential to be a fun action movie and be a sort of female version of the A-Team. However with a lack of any real character development, this one is kind of forgettable. Even the main character of Frank doesn't go through any major changes. He hated women at the start of this and at the end he only dislikes them. I would have loved it if this macho misogynistic guy posing as a gay fashion designer actually became gay in this film. Being in the role gave our hero the courage to be who he always wanted to be. For the '80s, and even now, that would be revolutionary.
The 2-Disc Special Edition features the movie on Blu-ray and DVD. The supplements included are:
Hired to Direct - Interview with director Nico Mastorakis
Undercover Mercenary - Interview with actor Brian Thomson
Audio Commentary with editor Brian Zetlin
Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring essay by film critic James Oliver