Charlie Pike (Jeff Fahey) is an assassin with a conscience. He learned how to kill while serving in the military and now, he uses his skills to help out the Committee, a shadowy organization of lawyers who are determined to take out the leaders of organized crime. When Charlie announces that he has decided to retire from the killing game, the Committee’s Peter Mayhew (James Coburn!) asks him to take on one more job as a personal favor to him.
Mayhew puts Charlie in contact with the beautiful and alluring Jordan (Yancy Butler, making her film debut). Jordan is the widow of a businessman who was murdered by the mob. Jordan asks Charlie to kill the man who killed her husband. Charlie agrees but, after he does the job, he discovers that the man he killed was actually a government informant who was scheduled to testify to Congress! Someone double-crossed Charlie and now, Charlie’s got both the police and another group of assassins trying to track him down. Jordan claims that Mayhew told her that the informant was responsible for her husband’s death. Mayhew denies it and says that Jordan must have set Charlie up. Charlie has to figure out who to trust before it’s too late. Complicating matters is that Charlie and Jordan have become lovers.
The Hit List is essentially a 40s film noir reinterpreted for the direct-to-video age. Jeff Fahey has the Alan Ladd role while Yancy Butler does her best imitation of Lana Turner. Fahey was one of the best actors to routinely star in the neo-noirs that used to populate late night Cinemax and The Hit List features one of his best performances. Fahey is a convincing killer but he still brings enough humanity to the role that you believe Charlie could find himself falling for Jordan. Yancy Butler is a sultry and sexy femme fatale and James Coburn is James Coburn, supercool, slick, and always in control. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out which one of the two is betraying Fahey but all three commit to their roles and give enjoyable performances. I especially liked the scene where Mayhew accuses Jordan of double-crossing Charlie and James Coburn grins like he’s having the time of his life. James Coburn was one of those actors who could liven up and improve any scene in any movie and he proves that here.
The Hit List is a well-made B-noir that’s elevated by its cast and which will leave you nostalgic for Cinemax in the 90s.