I feel I owe the makers of this film (and Myles McLane, its writer and producer) an apology. I am not equipped to review Hit Team. I was approached by Myles to watch it and to pen down my thoughts, and I, being a responsible, sensitive critic, felt obliged to accept. But the fact of the matter is, this is a difficult movie to review and, considering reviews are meant to promote low-key films, I must call upon my integrity and advise Myles to search the internet for a review that isn’t cynical.
Is it standard practice for independent features to contain subpar acting, hammy dialogue, nonsensical roundabout plots, pea-brained characters and shoddy special effects? Certainly not. And yet Hit Team has all of these. What was the thought process behind the making of this picture? What did Myles and his team set out to accomplish?
I keep thinking to myself that maybe movies on such low budgets are inherently restricted in the creative and innovative departments. But no. It all stems from the screenplay, and that comes free of charge. It costs nothing to write smart, witty stories where we actually care about what the characters do and what decisions they make. The screenplay of Hit Team reads like a shuffled deck of cards.
Consider the two detectives, Akeem (Roger Payano) and Cynthia (Anita Leeman). I get that they are meant to be dim-witted shadows of real detectives, but how can we even believe them as fake detectives when they’re nowhere smart enough to handle a case that involves the mysterious deaths of random people? They frequently find themselves chasing down wrong leads, and when a moment of brilliance brightens their dull faces, they shift gears to another wrong lead. I am convinced that every time the film cuts to them, they have to scramble to improvise their lines.
The plot follows two assassins, a man and a woman, who, before the movie can even begin proper, have already fallen into that buddy cop cliche where one hates the other, and the other is ingratiating to the point of vexation. Here we get Max (Myles McLane) and Ruthie (Emerald Robinson). Max is nerdy and bumbling, making you wonder how he ever became a hitman. Ruthie is supple, leather-clad, despises Max because he keeps wanting to caress her bum, and contains a body under her leather dress so irresistible it turns a fugitive into a drooling drone in a matter of seconds. She’s that good.
They’ve been sent from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to do the bidding of their boss, Michael Cunningham (Douglas Macpherson), who also happens to be the logistics manager of my film department back at university. Michael says he has a quota: Six dead bodies every day. Why? Who knows? Maybe he’s bored of his skimpy mistress and needs a hobby.
A couple of the kills go according to plan. Then they start to mess up — which seems more logical than them succeeding — and Michael is vexed. He grabs a bunch of cronies and flies to L.A. to sort the debacle out. Everyone meets in a hilly park overlooking the city for the lengthy, confusing climax, and then Max finally gets to seduce Ruthie, even though we are convinced she succumbs as a prank.
Hit Team is the second super low budget independent film I’ve seen in as many days. The first, VANish (2015), was no masterpiece, but it was confident and was filmed right. Hit Team is creatively confused and technically unsound. Shots are overexposed. Audio levels screech and climb off the charts of comfortable human tolerance. The camera wobbles and vibrates during chases, resulting in bizarre footage. The majority of the dialogue is haphazardly dubbed over in post. The acting is over the top and downright awkward in places. These are issues not even film students should be making in their humble projects.
I am deeply grateful to Myles McLane and his team for approaching me to review their movie, but I can’t help but leave with this piece of advice: Watch Bryan Bockbrader’s VANish to see how it should be done, and don’t use my review to promote Hit Team. I beg of you.
Hit Team is available for online streaming at https://filmcanal.com/#!/home
Best Moment | Akeem jumping over the branch and running into a cloud of leaves. Or Max chasing one of Michael’s henchmen round a tree.
Worst Moment | It pains me to say this, but most of Max’s expressions and reactions.