The only draw for a film like A Hitman in London is watching a hitman use more of his feet.
Published on February 10, 2023
Rating 2 /5
The assembled cast is the biggest thing that A Hitman in London has going for it. Here you have the talents of Mickey Rourke, Daryl Hannah, Eric Roberts, Michael Madsen, and Jeff Fahey; all brought together for this action picture. There’s also the added allure of real-life kickboxer Gary Daniels inhabiting the lead role. Sadly, this picture never entirely takes off with its thrills. No wonder this picture switched titles from its previous choice of Skin Traffik to seem less similar.
It doesn’t help that this picture feels like a lukewarm retread of every film ever made about a hitman. Take the opening, for example, where we’re introduced to the hitman Bradley (Daniels). He’s seen exercising amid shots of the city as he narrates the bog-standard “I do what I do” philosophy. He then enters a church to receive his target, and my mind drew back to John Woo’s legendary film The Killer and how brilliantly this scene looked in that film. This picture, however, has clunky camera work and uneven lighting that hardly creates a tone. I suppose the fast editing and rock soundtrack are supposed to carry this picture.
And the relations with The Killer don’t end there, as Bradley has finished his latest assignment that has tragically ended in the death of an innocent woman. This leads to him taking on a new assignment in London, where he ends up helping a woman out of a human trafficking situation, trying to tame his guilt. He had hoped to put this life of violence behind him, but he gets pulled back to do some good in the world.
It’s not that this tired and overused scenario couldn’t work for an action picture. It can act as a lattice for which some exciting action scenes can take place. Unfortunately, the direction is so poor throughout, leading to many lackluster scenes of clumsy editing, uneven lighting, strange choices in slowing down the framerate, and cumbersome fights of fists and bullets. The whole film comes off like an amateur B-movie. I’m not expecting John Wick from a budgeted production, but a skilled filmmaker can make the best of what they have to work with. Yet so much of this picture seems to have been made with a “we’ll fix it in post” attitude. And as the joke usually goes with this saying, very little was fixed in post-production, where the frenetic editing of even the calmest scenes makes the movie worse.
It’s also hard to feel anything in this picture when characters come off as stock stones of archetypes, trying and failing to nail that cold chill of noir grit. This transforms the film into a picture that is all brawn and no brains, where the real draw of Daniels is more for his ability to fight than any personality he’s meant to exude in this role of a weathered hitman. This also feels like the draw of such top talents as Rourke, Roberts, and Madsen, who have that direct-to-video acting style of being paid for a day to have a familiar name on the poster. Rourke spends most of the movie sitting down, trying to make the best of nothing-dialogue while wearing sunglasses.
The only draw for a film like A Hitman in London is watching a hitman use more of his feet. Come to think of it, why wasn’t the film just written around a hitman who uses kicks instead of guns? The Kickboxer Assassin! Now, there’s a movie! It might’ve even benefited this movie instead of naming it something as forgettable as A Hitman in London or Skin Traffik. This film is a mess, where even its best fights are sloppily stitched together in poor editing.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.