In recent years OSCAR winner Cuba Gooding Jr. has been toiling in nearly unwatchable straight-to-DVD fare. While Gooding is typically solid, the films themselves are shoddy under produced genre pieces often marred by confused plotting and below standard production values. However that is not the case with ‘The Hit List’, a taut lean little indie gem that contains Gooding’s best performance in years. It also benefits from a sturdy turn by underrated screen veteran Cole Hauser. The two have great chemistry in a film that borrows heavily from the 2004 Tom Cruise pic ‘Collateral’.
Cuba Gooding Jr. does his best Cruise impersonation as a whacked out government assassin gone AWOL. Even his wardrobe is almost identical to the suit the ‘Top Gun’ star sports in that earlier film. Allan Campbell (Cole Hauser) is having a bad day, his boss passed him over for a promotion and his wife is having an affair with his best friend. Distraught, Allen seeks refuge in a bar where he meets a stranger (Gooding Jr.) that seems a little too friendly for such casual conversation. After consuming copious amounts of bourbon the stranger asks Allen to write down the names of five people he’d like to see killed. Thinking it’s a lark Allen obliges only to become frighteningly aware that this man is deadly intent on completing the ‘Hit List’.
It’s not a wholly original concept and the script by Chad and Evan Law is often clumsy and full of questionable actions by the main character. I wonder if any man willing to put his wife’s name on an assassins to-do list, could have a change of heart so quickly? However the excellent chemistry between Hauser and Goooding Jr. is enough to elevate the material to a higher level than expected. The pair share a lengthy dialogue heavy scene in an Irish Pub that is unnerving and endearing at the same time. It’s a credit to the skill of these fine actors that ‘The Hit List’ is so compulsively watchable. A huge step in the right direction career-wise for Cuba Gooding Jr.
Director: William Kaufman
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Cole Hauser, Jonathan LaPaglia
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