A Hitman in London full movie review - "Before I do a job, I always ask why"
Ara Paiaya is a veteran of low-budget filmmaking who's even achieved some underground acclaim with his DUBBED AND DANGEROUS series.
He breaks into the slightly more mainstream arena of action cinema with SKIN TRAFFIK ? a vehicle for Gary Daniels that addresses the very real problem of sex trafficking. Bringing a slew of cult costars and his own set of strengths and weaknesses to the production, Paiaya succeeds in making an entertaining but thoroughly flawed adventure that's nevertheless worth the price for most of Daniels' fans.
The story: A guilt-ridden hit man (Daniels) seeks to regain his humanity by rescuing a young girl from the clutches of sex slavers.
The film's biggest selling point is its cast, which constitutes a fine collection of veterans: Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Alan Ford, and Jeff Fahey comprise a pretty sweet lineup for any film, direct-to-video or not. However, the way these actors are utilized and how well they perform is another matter: few of them appear in more than a few isolated scenes, and even fewer of them get in on any of the action. Roberts and Fahey are the most rounded and integrated characters, while Rourke ad-libs awkwardly and Hannah does her best to speak her lines in an undertone. Luckily, Gary Daniels is growing as an actor, and he carries the picture well enough. Overall, the dramatic content is passable, though it's clear that most of these stars have been cast solely for their names on the poster.
Director Paiayah may have overspent on this marketing move, for while the film usually looks professional enough, there are surprising dips in technical quality that briefly make it look like Ara's no-budget outings of yesteryear. However, the movie remembers itself promptly enough, and it certainly sobers up for its fight scenes. These too are imperfect, but do more things right than not. Ara edits the brawls a lot looser than I expected and often does not utilize sound effects to signify strikes, but the fights possess a level of energy that I haven't seen in a Daniels vehicle in well over a decade. While Gary's one-on-one dream matchups (against Ron Smoorenburg and Paiaya himself, respectively) disappoint, the mass brawls are an athletic delight. This marks the first time in Gary's later career that the action of one of his films was designed by a younger stunt team with a more modern take on fight choreography, and I'm happy to say that Gary holds his own throughout.
With the movie's human trafficking theme, Gary joins a slew of fellow action heroes starring in pictures of the same topic. While I'm pleased that awareness of this crime is being treated as more than window dressing, I am critical about the proliferation of male heroes in this setting. Sex slavery is something that predominantly affects girls and women, but in this film, their trials exist only to fuel the righteous indignation of Daniels' character. (SPOILER) It doesn't do much for the tone of the picture when the only featured victim (Dominique Swain) is killed off for shock value after being established as a main character. In this regard, consider this review a distress call to Cynthia Rothrock: we need you to put a female face on this particular subgenre.
Nevertheless, when viewed as nothing more than a cheap action flick, SKIN TRAFFIK delivers where it counts and most of its faults are overlookable as experimental touches. This one may divide general action fans and devotees of the more famous performers, but if watch this movie primarily for Gary Daniels' sake, you could definitely do worse. I hope that Gary continues to seek out ambitious projects like this, and that Ara Paiaya continues to hone his craft ? he might yet become a good guy of the karate scene.