Nico Mastorakis is starting to become a favorite of mine. Things started off shaky with the Island of Death movie, but once I saw The Zero Boys, I fell in love with his directing. The streak of hits continues with Hired to Kill, a 1990 action flick starring Brian Thompson as a mercenary going undercover as a fashion mogul to rescue a hostage from a deranged madman played by Oliver Reed (whew, that’s a mouthful of a synopsis). It’s got a fun vibe, with plenty of action and beautiful ladies. The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is another in a long line of stellar releases, with a wonderful transfer and some lovely new interviews with Director Nico Mastorakis and star Brian Thompson. You should know by now that the Blu is worth picking up, but if you want to know more, please read on…
DISCS: 2 (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD)
RUN-TIME: 96 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO: 5.1 DTS-HD MA / Uncompressed PCM Stereo
SUBTITLES: English SDH
PRODUCTION DATE: 1989
RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2016
Starring legendary actors Oliver Reed (Gladiator, The Brood) and George Kennedy (The Delta Force and The Naked Gun series), Hired to Kill is an essential slice of ’90s action fare featuring guns, girls and a plethora of budget-busting explosions for good measure. Action movie staple Brian Thompson (whose brief turn in 1984’s The Terminator led to a starring role in the 1986 Sylvester Stallone vehicle Cobra) stars as Frank Ryan, a mercenary sent to track down a rebel leader in hostile territory. Posing as a fashion designer, he won’t be going it alone, as he’ll be aided by seven beautiful – but deadly – female fighters. Whilst the opportunity to see Oliver Reed chewing up the scenery behind an elaborate moustache merits the price of the admission alone, Hired to Kill is also noteworthy as being co-directed by Nico Mastorakis – the man behind such cult favourites as Island of Death and The Zero Boys.
The fictional country of Cypra is being run by a madman, Michael Bartos (Reed). In order to regain stability in the country, the C.I.A. hire mercenary Frank Ryan (Thompson) to rescue the kidnapped rebel leader known only as Brother. Frank is being fed this information personally by Thomas, played by the always enjoyable George Kennedy. Thomas tells Frank that in order to get into the country, he must go undercover as the fashion mogul, Cecil Thornton. Frank will also be bringing along a bevy of beauties, who are actually highly trained killers. It’s a risky job, but the payout is large and Frank is in it for the money.
It wouldn’t be an action movie, though, without a few backstabbings and double crosses. Hired to Kill has plenty of those, but it also has a ton of fun times and hilarious scenes. One scene, in particular, involves Frank trying to prove he is gay (a requirement in order to be a fashion mogul… I guess), so he plants a big ol’ kiss on the surprised mustached face of Oliver Reed. It’s a scene that will get a good laugh or two (well, maybe not in this highly PC world we live in now).
Hired to Kill has a lot of characters and one would be inclined in thinking there wouldn’t be enough time to develop them all, but the flick does a wonderful job at giving each character a solid backstory and you eventually end up loving each one, be they a good guy/gal or bad. The movie takes a bit of time to get to the mission, as it spends an ample portion on an extended training montage, but this allows the viewer to get invested in each and every character. Once the actual mission starts, you are hoping they all make it out alive.
Brian Thompson, to me, was always known as a bad guy, thanks to his awesome portrayal as the deadly Night Slasher in Cobra. However, he comes through with a fantastic performance as the hero in Hired to Kill. He has to do quite a bit with the role, either playing the muscled hero or the feminine fashion icon. He certainly has a lot of fun with it and it shows through on film. Oliver Reed is another who seems to be having a good time, but in a different, constantly drunk way. Hamming his way through each scene, he manages to deliver a solid performance as the villain. His character does disappear for a good portion of the flick, though, which is unfortunate.
Arrow Video does a wonderful job with the audio and video. It features a wonderfully loud soundtrack, with two options to choose from. You have the Uncompressed PCM Stereo option, but also a 5.1 DTS-HD MA. I watched the movie in 5.1 and was a bit disappointed with the lack of rear channel use, but the movie was loud and clear with the sound and dialogue. My suggestion, however, is to stick with the Uncompressed Stereo option for the best audio option. The video also comes through clear, with nice intact grain, deep blacks, even colour and no visible damage (in my opinion).
Special features included are an interview with Director Nico Mastorakis, who recalls his time on Hired to Kill. He had to come on board to help co-direct with Peter Rader, as Mr. Rader was having a hard time with the action scenes. He also recollects his misery of dealing with the always drunk Oliver Reed and the time Reed whipped his little “chopper” out during a take. Nico is a hoot to listen to and this interview is worth the watch. Also included is an interview with lead Brian Thompson. He too reminisces about the shooting and working with Oliver Reed (chopper scene is once again mentioned). He also sadly remembers the tragic accident on film that took the life of a stuntman. It’s a solid interview and Brian Thompson seems like a great guy, which surprised me, cause as I said before, I always picture him as a bad guy. Rounding out the features is a trailer, photo gallery, and commentary with editor Barry Zetlin. An all around solid release.
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original Stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio Commentary with editor Barry Zetlin
• Hired to Direct – a brand new interview with director Nico Mastorakis on the making of Hired to Kill
• Undercover Mercenary – a brand new interview with star Brian Thompson
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Stills Gallery
• Original Screenplay, entitled Freedom or Death (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver
Hired to Kill came out in a weird time when the 80’s was winding down, but the fashion still stuck around. It definitely has an 80’s action feel to it still, which is a blessing as most 90s action flicks are terrible. The film benefits from solid acting and directing and the cult status this movie is now receiving is muchly deserved. The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is another wonderful release and if you’re thinking about picking it up, do it. You won’t regret it.