Chuck Norris brings some major ruckus in The Hitman (1991).

What more can be said about the one and only Chuck Norris that hasn’t already been said? A true legend, and pioneer in martial arts, on screen and off.

I decided to go back and revisit one of my favorites of his that I hadn’t seen since back in the day and it packs just as much punch and grit as I remembered. I’m talkin’ about 1991’s The Hitman, brought to us by the glorious Cannon Films.

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A Norris Brothers Production

Directed by Chuck’s younger brother, Aaron Norris, a familiar pairing – The Hitman opens with Chuck and his partner played by the underrated actor Michael Parks (From Dusk till Dawn/Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2) about ready to dive into a drug bust. In one of the more shocking moments in action movie history, Parks double crosses him, shoots Chuck twice and we see him fall out a warehouse window onto a car. Parks has flipped to the other side of the law apparently and it was his drug shipment that was coming in. We see Chuck in a bad way, near death and then it fast forwards to years later…

Norris now sporting a new look and occupation (or so it seems). He is sporting a long trenchcoat and a sweet mullet, pre-dating Van Damme’s in Hard Target and he is now working for one of the biggest crime bosses in the city as a right hand man, or hit man. We the audience know he is undercover, but the baddies just never see Chuck comin’.

We see Chuck going home after a long day of ‘criminal activities’ and this is where the heart of the movie is. He sees a neighborhood kid locked out of his apartment door, his mom was hard at work at one of her three jobs, so of course Chuck shows his soft side and lets the kid sleep on his couch until his mom comes to get him. Like I said, this is where the real heart of the movie is and one of the best things going for it is Chuck’s growing relationship with the kid. 

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The kid played by Salim Grant (Saved By The Bell: The New Class) gives a very likable performance as he is getting bullied at school. Chuck shows him some self defense techniques and it works out well as Grant ends up standing up for himself and taking on the bully. The bully’s dad is a real piece of shit, egging it on and of course we get to see Chuck handle his business like we wanted to see him do. He punches the guy through a screen door.

Throughout the film we see Chuck getting deeper and deeper involved with the crime boss and other warring factions. The action is solid, but don’t expect a ton of martial arts. The action is well shot with some memorable entrances. Chuck still kicks ass – especially in one of my favorite scenes of the movie, where he goes into a restaurant to confront the Israeli crime group. He stands right on their table, putting his fingers in their drinks and food and asks them, “Are you afraid to die? Because I’m not.” He proceeds to wipe the floor with them and it’s awesome.

We finally get to see the showdown that we were waiting for as Norris comes face with his old partner turned crime boss, Parks. The fight is solid enough, but how it ends is the most memorable. Chuck ends up tying him to a chair as the chair dangles out the window. Chuck’s police backup shows up and you think it’s over, but then we see Parks has a bomb strapped to him as well. Boom! He gets splattered all over the window. The police chief yells at Norris saying, “We wanted him alive!” and then Norris replies with “Ain’t life a bitch?!”. Epic line to close off this early 90s action classic.

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A Classic Chuck Norris Performance

What really makes this movie standout is the cool, moody atmosphere it has. Chuck gives his usual tough as nails performance that we all know and love, while the rest of the cast is filled with good, veteran actors, but to me, not all that memorable of characters. Besides the ones I mentioned.

Having said that, The Hitman was one of the last films that Norris did before going into Walker, Texas Ranger mode, and it really is one of the definitive films in his catalog. Who misses seeing Norris on screen? I certainly do. Thankfully he has given us a legacy in entertainment and so many classics to go back to.

1 COMMENT

  1. Michael Park “underrated” ?!?! Thanks to the likes of Quentin Tarantino,Kevin Smith,and Robert Rodriguez,Parks became a highly respected genre character actor in the latter years of his career as many modern genre film critics and film fans to make sure that he is vividly well remembered(and not forgotten).

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