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The Killing Machine
IMDB Rating: 4.6/10 from 205 votes
Release: 16 December 1994 (Canada) /

The Killing Machine

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director: David Mitchell,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Harlin Garret loses his memory and finds himself closed in a facility claimed to belong to the state security services. The manager of this place tells Garrett he used to be a killer for the mob but Garrett refuses to believe. Then he is forced to kill people that are a "Risk to the state security", but the whole story gets complicated when Garret falls in love with one of his victims... Written by Asaf Peeri <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews

In stark comparison to another Canadian B-movie action movie which I have reviewed (Hawk's Vengeance), _The Killing Machine_ (1994) is an all-around excellent movie of it's B-class genre. I would go so far as to call it more of an A-minus movie than a B-plus, in that it has superior writing, directing, acting, editing and production values than I have come to expect from budget action films.

The story is relatively simple: Harlin Garrett (Jeff Wincott) is a former mob hitman who is 'rescued' from near-death at the hands of his double-crossing former employers, by an unspecified top secret government agency. The head of the agency, the mysterious Mr. Green (Michael Ironside) offers Garrett a choice: eliminate some 'enemies of the state' and serve his country, earning himself a new lease on life, or be summarily terminated. Garrett, after considering his options, opts to aid his new employers in carrying out some assassinations. However, things begin to go awry when Garrett falls in love with Dr. Ann Kendall, a medical professor he has been ordered to kill. Now he must choose between his new career and his new love, as he fights to uncover the truth behind the assassination orders he has been given.

I won't spoil the ending for you or get into specifics, even if the story is perhaps slightly derivative and predictable in its plot. However, I will happily indulge in heaping kudos on writer-director David Mitchell, who takes what would otherwise have been a horribly hackneyed B-movie thriller and turned it into something which almost transcends the ignominy of its genre.

The dialogue is not weak or stilted, and while there are not really any quotable soliloquys or witty, pithy one-liners from the protagonist, neither is it embarassingly amateurish. The plot is not particularly complex, but neither is it totally hackneyed, and the story requires very little suspension of disbelief to be believable. It is also not egregiously complicated (a problem found in many B-movies), which can be credited as much to the strong continuity, excellent editing and filming as to the writing. There are even some scenes with wonderfully sublime and subtle shots (eg. a scene where Garrett gets up in the middle of the night beside the sleeping Ann Kendall, and silently dresses before attempting to rummage through her valise - the scene is wonderfully shot, with everything from the care with which Garrett takes so as not to awaken Ann, to the dressing in the dark (captured in silhouette on the wall rather than obviously and directly filmed)). The fight scenes are wonderfully choreographed and filmed to ensure that most, if not all of the kicks and punches appear to land on their opponents, and a final showdown with the henchman of the main antagonist is filmed partially in slow-motion, and both actors give laudable performances in attempting to realistically portray and convey the terrible bone-breaking blows and excruciating pain of the fight. The gunplay is excellent as well, if not exactly Matrix-level or John Woo-style, the gunshots are foleyed well, accurately set up, and even the bloodsplatters and drips on the floor look realistic. I give high marks for the excellent production values of the movie, a credit to the producers. Even the incidental music and score is of remarkable quality without sounding cheap or being overly intrusive.

As for the acting, Jeff Wincott does an admirable job portraying the main character as a brooding loner with dubious morals and ambiguous allegiances, yet nevertheless a sympathetic anti-hero you end up rooting for. Michael Ironside brings his usual sinister scowl and Jack Nicholson impression to the role of Mr. Green (he must be the hardest working man in Hollywood this side of Kevin Bacon!), and Terri Hawkes is excellent in bringing the 'hot librarian' look to the Dr. Kendall character, playing the competent professional, the frightened leading lady, the angry girlfriend and the succubus-in-the-sack scenes with equal skill. There is also a cameo scene with Calista Carradine (daughter of David Carradine) that is so brief that if you blink you might miss it, as well as some requisite B-movie staples of gratuitous nudity and love scenes, courtesy of eye candies Stephanie McKeown and Rhonda Towells. It is interesting to note that Terri Hawkes also has a love scene in this movie, as she is perhaps better known as the voice for 'Serena', a.k.a. Sailor Moon and 'Franny' from the politically incorrect cartoon 'Quads!'. Jeff Wincott is the older brother of actor Michael Wincott, who played the character Philo Gant in the James Cameron-written/Kathryn Bigelow-directed science fiction thriller _Strange Days_ (1995) among other roles as supporting characters.

As someone who grew up in Toronto and now once-again a current resident of the GTA, I am proud to note that all three of the lead actors in this movie (and perhaps, some, most or all of the other actors as well) are from the T-Dot, and I believe the movie was filmed here as well (I believe I glimpsed an obvious Torontonian moment when Terri Hawkes gets into a Diamond Taxi Cab on her way home from work). There are many Canadian films filmed in Canada, but few get the respect of most critics or movie-goers (with the exception of Cronenberg/Egoyan films, perhaps), with reason: most Canadian films cannot match the production values of Hollywood-produced films, especially in the dreaded B-movie genre. However, _The Killing Machine_ is an example of how smaller Canadian-made films can be excellent (like _Cube_ (1997), and _Treed Murray_ (2001)), and I hope Canadian filmmaking will continue to pursue these higher standards of excellence to silence the naysayers who deride Canadian films.

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