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‘The Hitman’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 29, 1991

The main selling point for "The Hitman," the latest Chuck Norris adventure, would seem to be the opportunity to see a Chucky as evil as the one in the "Child's Play" series. Norris is no doll, of course, though his features are nearly as inanimate, as the top graduate of the Charles Bronson Acting Academy sleepwalks through his role as a detective sent undercover to infiltrate the Seattle mob.

Just a few years before, Norris had been brutally gunned down by his crooked partner. Though he survived, he apparently lost his conscience along with his consciousness. Norris is both hot-tempered and cold-blooded, and the result is a film that is littered with corpses. The bodies belong to the Italian American element of the Seattle mob, French Canadian gangsters from nearby Vancouver (Le Mob?) and, to further confuse things, very well-dressed Iranian gangsters. These mobsters talk nasty and they die nasty. It's like "GoodFellas" without a plot.

Family being family, director Aaron Norris doesn't let his cash-cow brother Chuck slide too deep into this web of evil. Between executions, Chuck manages to adopt a young black neighbor whose single mom is absent because she's working three jobs to allow them to live in this good neighborhood. However, these seem to be the only black people living in either Seattle or Vancouver and there's something awkwardly paternalistic about the relationship that develops (Norris teaches the kid to fight and make airplane models).

The inevitable climax involves the return of Norris's partner (Michael Parks, a one-time pretty boy actor who has gradually become a very nasty movie villain). There's no particular surprise about the ending, though Norris remains true to his soured persona right to that end. In this latest chapter in his oeuvre, he shoots as much as he punches, suggesting a crossroads of sorts. Will he become Dirty Chucky? We'll hazard a guess after the first month's grosses.

"The Hitman" is rated R and contains graphic language, martial arts violence and shootings, but no nudity.

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