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MOVIE REVIEW : Trite Plot Terminates 'The Hitman'

October 28, 1991|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The Hitman" (citywide) opens effectively. Two middle-aged cops, longtime partners, are about to pack up a stakeout in a Manhattan warehouse district when one of them (Chuck Norris) notices suspicious flashing lights high up in a nearby building.

Norris scarcely has time to comprehend that he's been set up by his partner (Michael Parks), when Parks blasts him through a warehouse window. Norris lands on top of a car several floors below but miraculously survives.

The Drug Enforcement Agency lets it be known that Norris is dead, however, rehabilitating him so he can infiltrate organized crime in Seattle. Almost immediately, the film lapses into ultra-violent tediousness as the local underworld kingpin (Al Waxman) engages in warfare with a French-Canadian rival (Marcel Sabourain). And there's a gang of aspiring Iranian drug dealers to contend with. Boredom mounts along with the body count.

Producer and co-writer Don Carmody (with Robert Geoffrion) missed a bet by moving Parks out of the picture so early. The laconic Norris and Parks, as a nervy, bantering cop "turned dirty," play off each other so well that their relationship should have been the center of the film, with Parks' betrayal providing the climax. To be sure, Parks reappears for the bloody finish, but that just reinforces how much he's been missed for the bulk of the movie.

Once labeled the new James Dean and now beginning to look like a younger Ronald Reagan, Parks has always been an unpredictable, exciting presence.

It's too bad that "The Hitman" (rated R for strong gangster violence and for language), directed by Aaron Norris, has been waylaid by a trite plot. It has some promising elements in the Norris-Parks teaming and in its film noir look and mood, provided in large by cinematographer Joao Fernandes.

A solid, mature screen presence himself, Norris is overdue for a film that requires him to act more--he's up to it--and fight and shoot less.

'The Hitman'

Chuck Norris: Garret/Grogan

Michael Parks: Ronny (Del) Delaney

Al Waxman: Marco Luganni

Alberta Watson: Christine De Vera

A Cannon Films presentation. Director Aaron Norris. Producer Don Carmody. Executive producers Andre Link, Peter Welbeck. Screenplay Robert Geoffrion, Carmody. Cinematographer Joao Fernandes. Editor Jacqueline Carmody. Costumes Mary McLeod. Music Joel Derouin. Production design Douglas Higgins. Art director Eric Fraser. Set decorator Barry Brolly. Sound Martin Fossum. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (for strong gangster violence and language).

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