Once again, the combined talents of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and crap have joined forces to bring us another direct-to-video wonder. Tonight on the “Cuba Gooding, Jr. Movie of the Weak,” we have The Hit List: the story of a dying government assassin named Jonas (Gooding) who meets Allan Campbell (Cole Hauser, son of the great Wings Hauser), a cowardly engineer in Spokane, Washington and decides to help the poor guy grow a pair.
Their unlikely friendship starts off like many great friendships do: the suffering hitman asks his newfound acquaintance to jot down the names of the five people in life that are presently making his existence a living hell. Jonas then proceeds to murder the individuals one by one; starting with Allan’s own boss, and moving his way up the list to Allan’s unfaithful wife.
But, seeing as how Jonas isn’t worried about keeping a low profile while he gallivants about and snuffs folks out, the local authorities (led by Anthony La Paglia’s brother, Jonathan) take note of the excessive levels of dead bodies piling up — particularly as Jonas takes great glee in rubbing out several police officers who get in his way. In the meantime, our gutless hero discovers that his bitchy, betraying bride isn’t really that bad of a gal, especially when her life is on the line. And it all ends with a grand shootout as Cuba goes all Terminator and infiltrates the police department in order to fulfill his twisted promise.
But The Terminator isn’t the only movie that The Hit List manages to rip-off. Chad and Evan Law’s screenplay also (very noticeably) borrows heavily from Collateral, throwing in a fair amount of other hitman dramas, such as The Contract (2002). Hell, the opening credits even manage to successfully imitate those of Casino Royale (2006), complete with flashy graphics and a kinda-catchy rock song.
And then there’s the matter of Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s repeated use of his character’s ridiculously-hilarious catchphrase. Somebody says “You’re joking” to him, he snaps back with “If this was a joke, would it be funny?” Well, not only does that query pretty much sums up the whole film, but the line is repeated enough times that it becomes apparent that our hero will utter it as the film reaches its mostly-unfulfilling climax. The final frame of the film — wherein a seldom-seen official over in Washington D.C. sits at home watching the news report of the final incident — wreaks of cliché, and we expect that the weakling Allan will walk away with some newfound strength along the lines of Jonas.
But, then, just as you’re prepared to administer a facepalm, the movie says “No soup for you” and ends. Was this a deliberate action; one that was intended to break away from those damned traditional cinematic stereotypes that we have simply come to expect? Or was it just an oversight?
It matters not, either way: The Hit List is a weak movie, plain and simple. The acting is pretty atrocious for the most part, with Gooding either not putting any effort into his performance whatsoever, or strutting around like he thinks he’s not a fallen star. Cole Hauser also is up for a slap on the wrist for this flick: his portrayal as the pusillanimous protagonist is terribly annoying, not to mention unconvincing because he’s completely wrong for the part.
This, of course, begs the question: had director William Kaufman thought to switch parts with his leads, would the movie have worked out more favorably for its viewers? Hell, had Kaufman worked on more features prior to directing this turkey, he might have learned how to edit an action sequence effectively.