I knew that I’d recognized the face, name, and voice of Luke Goss, star of INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN. As much as I tried, I couldn’t place it. At first, I mistaken thought he was Jason Lewis, the young stud who romanced Samantha throughout the last season of (dare I say it?) HBO’s “Sex and the City,” but, were that the case, we would’ve had to have slimmed down a bit and lost some hair. After the flick ended, I quickly went over to IMDB and searched, and only then did it come to me. That’s because when I’d last seen him (twice), he was under so many layers of make-up (in BLADE 2 and HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY) that his own mother probably wouldn’t have known who he was. Goss has built up an impressive resume in some second-tier direct-to-DVD action pictures – think of him as a budget Jason Statham – of which INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN might push him into mainstream status if more people discover it.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Viktor (the aforementioned Goss) has finally decided to come clean, to tell his story to an aging motion picture director who’s hoping for one more great shot at producing an unforgettable documentary about organized crime. With no reservations, Viktor tells all – how he got his start on the streets of Romania, how he was ‘discovered’ by the organization, how he went on the run and made himself part of a new syndicate when things turned dark – and he’s not afraid to name names and bring secrets to life. However, when all is done and over, audiences might be left questioning just whose story the stealthy hitman was bringing to life, because not all secrets can be hidden or forgotten with a bullet.
For the record, this is writer/director Perry Bhandal’s first film, and, on most counts, it’s very impressive. He’s assembled a largely unknown (or unheard of) cast to tell this story of a hitman whose heart may or may not be in the right place, and he’s populated it with mostly believable circumstances and situations. Goss – as mentioned – is a particularly strong, charismatic lead, who clearly puts all of himself into even the quieter moments of exploring a life of crime. Caroline Tillette – she plays the mysterious ‘Bethesda,’ a contract kill Viktor refuses to carry out – brings modest depth to a role that never quite emerges from the shadows; her character has a purpose, but – once audiences know what it is – it’ll possibly stretch the bounds of believability to their necessary limits. It’s far from perfect, but, for what’s needed, it works just fine.
Still, what others have embraced as “a dark and complex tale” works only seventy percent of the time, largely due to the fact that the script could’ve used some polish in the Logic Department. I won’t trouble you with all of the unanswered questions because to do so would spoil much of the story that develops, but I’ll caution you to watch the criminal organizations very closely: how far would their legitimate reaches stretch, and, if they stretched as far as the story implies, why is it no one openly recognized our two leads a bit more frequently than they did?
Plus, there are some curious edits that Bhandal employed that, by their nature, imply a passage of time when, in fact, no time (or no legitimately length of time) passed. This happens a few times in the picture, and that leads me to believe that it was a stylistic choice made by the director and not an error in the production process. Yes, I realize that it’s a minor quibble, but it’s one that detracted from my enjoyment of the film when it shouldn’t have – I’m comfortable chalking it up to the lessons that’ll be learned of a first-time director.
It’s a great start to Bhandal’s career, as well as being another great feather in Goss’s cap. Audiences would be wise to watch what develops with both of these emerging forces, as I’d suspect there are good things in store for their respective futures.
INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN is produced by Kirlian Pictures, Scanner-Rhodes Productions, Northern Film and Media, and Northstar Ventures. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA. Only for purposes of clarity will I mention that, despite this taking place in several foreign countries, English is the spoken language throughout the picture. As for the technical specifications, the film looks very solid, but I have to point out that some of the mike work was just awful; much of the story unfolds in a hotel room (where Viktor narrates his story) or very large warehouse environments, and a more accomplished sound technician could’ve added enormous worth here as some of the recorded tracks are a bit garbled or hard-to-hear. To compensate, I cranked up the volume and turned on the English subtitles (there are a couple really obvious misspelled words there, too), and that helped mostly. Lastly, there’s a short (15 minute) ‘making of’ featurette as well as the theatrical trailer for those interested.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Not every decision that’s made in independent film production is the right one, but there’s plenty to be excited about if you’re (A) drawn to indie pictures, (B) are a fan of Luke Goss, (C) can appreciate a good femme fatale when you see one, and (D) like your film noir best served up hard-boiled. If that’s the case, you’re likely to have as grand a time as I did with INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN despite some quirky shortcomings that probably was the result of this being writer/director Perry Bhandal’s first picture. I’m told forgiveness is divine; try telling that to these characters, and don’t mind the bullet in the arse as you run out the door.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA provided me with an advance DVD screener of INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.