Portrait Of A Hitman

· June 24, 2004

A designers dream of a cover

The world of cheap movies is dominated by one name, and that name is Hollywood DVD. While examples of their craft can occasionally be found maskerading as proper movies in mainstream retailers such as Virgin, the true spiritual home of these gems is the pound shops that have proliferated across our towns and cities.

One film published by the aforementioned Hollywood DVD is '77 Jack Palance vehicle, Portrait of a Hitman. The premise is fiendish in it's intricacies. Palance is a hitman, one of the deadliest in the world, but at the same time he is also a master painter, despite the fact the one painting you actually see him working on looks like the cover of a 70s romance novel. All seems well in the world of the artistically inclined assassin, until he's given the contract to kill a surgeon. Not any surgeon, but blonde behemoth Bo Svenson, who plays Palance's closest friend. Being a 70s movie, they express their friendship in the form of high speed races in sports cards, but still, Palance can't go through with it.

Sharp eyed readers may note that as plots for rubbish movies go, this isn't actually that bad. Unfortunately, a number of elements work against the film. Firstly, they clearly didn't shoot enough of it. Clocking in at 88 minutes seems reasonable, until you realise that at least 15 of those minutes are recaps to other parts of the film that you've already seen, usually with the addition of a filter, or some kind of alternative editing. To at least give it a chance of hitting the run time, most of the movie is paced incredibly slowly, apart from short bursts of hyperactively edited plot when someone realised that nothing had happened in the last ten minutes.

This isn't to say the film is all bad. Richard "Shaft" Roundtree pops up as the villian of the piece with an amusing jamaican accent and Phillip "Kung-Fu" Ahn has a role based mostly around sitting down as Palance's hitman friend, Wong. There was also a guy named Bobby, or possibly Billy, that Palance seemed pretty damn cut up about killing. We had never seen him before, but Bobby/Billy's death haunts me to the day, as does most of the movie.

These days you can get the DVDs in two-packs for a pound, so this movie should cost you no more than 50p, but please, place a value on the 88 minutes of your life you will lose, or perhaps the 20 minutes until everyone sensible has given up.