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Jennifer Jason Leigh
This blaxploitation styled second filming of Ted Lewis's novel "Jack's Return Home" - filmed just the previous year as the crime classic "Get Carter" - is an acceptable diversion. It has a good cast playing a variety of seedy characters, and a lot of hip dialogue. It's anchored by the cooler than cool Bernie Casey, the former football player who segued into a respectable career as an actor. It's all familiar enough for those who've seen "Get Carter", although it comes up with some different settings for the action, such as a wildlife preserve and a dog fighting ring.
Casey plays a character named Tyrone Tackett, a tough as nails dude who travels from Oakland to L.A. to investigate the death of his brother Cornell. To do this, he must navigate the criminal underworld, including the adult entertainment business, making the acquaintance of people such as porn star Gozelda (a typically radiant Pam Grier).
"Hit Man" isn't anything special, but it's reasonably fun, with a script written by the movies' director, George Armitage. Produced by Roger Cormans' brother Gene (who was always more of a hands-on producer than his more famous sibling), its soundtrack (music by H.B. Barnum) is as engaging as anything else done for the blaxploitation genre. The cinematography is by future director Andrew Davis, who shot four features for Corman. There is some pretty potent violence near the end as well as a serving of female nudity.
Casey, who has a solid presence on screen, is well supported by Ms. Grier, Sam Laws as used car salesman Sherwood Epps, Candy All as Tyrones' niece Rochelle, Don Diamond as white mobster Nano Zito, Ed Cambridge as porno theatre entrepreneur Theotis Oliver, Roger E. Mosley as muscle man Huey, and Marilyn Joi as the aptly named Rita Biggs. Paul Gleason, a fixture in Armitages' filmography during this time, appears uncredited as a crooked cop.
Casey's Tackett does exhibit some of the same ruthlessness as Michael Caines' Jack Carter, and is overall enjoyable to watch.
Six out of 10.
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