THE KILLING MACHINE
THE KILLING MAN
The Killing Machine starts out promisingly as a variant on the resurrected/reprogrammed action hero. At least the way the video box advertises it, the film seems to be a variant on Universal Soldier (1992) and its plot about soldiers being resurrected and turned into fighting machines. But one of the frustrations that quickly comes is that the film never clarifies whether the government agency has physically resurrected Jeff Wincott from the dead after he was burned in a fire, or they are merely referring to him being dead in the sense that that is what everyone believes he is and/or that he has made a near-miraculous recovery from his burns. Certainly, if Wincotts character has been literally resurrected, there is zero discussion of the means whereby the government agency has done so. In fact, what we have here comes closer to the then recent Luc Besson hit Nikita/La Femme Nikita (1990) about an underworld figure being turned and made to fight for a covert government agency. Although, the work that The Killing Machine comes closest to is the Destroyer novels and the plot set-up of the film version Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985).
The Killing Machine starts out quite well in the scenes with the amnesiac Jeff Wincott trying to make sense of who he is and learning that he used to be a mob hitman. In these scenes, The Killing Machine almost seems on the verge of turning the idea of the resurrected action hero a la Universal Solider into a moodily internal Soul of the Assassin piece. Alas, director David Mitchell doesnt display enough of an ability to get inside the hero or transcend the action movie formula and The Killing Machine remains prosaically centred around the action scenes.
The film starts to go out on a limb in a big way when it first has Jeff Wincott despatched to kill a gay rights activist (by posing as his chauffeur and, it is suggested, allowing the man to seduce him) and next being sent to eliminate Terri Hawkes and cover up evidence that proves that the AIDS virus was artificially manufactured. The film starts to become interesting from this point, as one has no idea where it is taking these ideas. The action film is a notably red-blooded heterosexual he-man genre there has never for example ever been a gay action hero, at most gay characters in action films are regarded as comic fodder, at worst the butt of derisive putdowns so The Killing Machine venturing into these areas can be greeted as either a film being interestingly liberal or bravely sticking its red-blooded neck out into decidedly un-PC areas and something potentially highly offensive. Alas, neither turns out to be the case, as The Killing Machine does nothing whatsoever with these ideas. Having raised the idea of AIDS being artificially created, the script fails to do the next logical thing and ask the looming question of who it was that manufactured it and why, not to mention the question of why Michael Ironsides shadowy unnamed government agency wants the evidence eliminated. What the film needed was some climactic speech from Michael Ironsides villain where he offers an explanation for everything that is going on.
The script soon settles down and becomes no more than a bunch of cliches about a lone action hero taking a stand against a gang of evildoers. There is no doubt from the outset that Jeff Wincotts hero, despite his past as a hitman and willing readiness to step back into such activities, will eventually turn against his masters. The latter half of the film even turns away from the hitman on assignment angle and sidetracks off into another plot altogether with Jeff Wincott seducing and becoming involved with Terri Hawkes and the threat of her jealous wannabe boyfriend Michael Copeman starting to uncover Wincotts past.
Director David Mitchell later went onto make The Ultimate Killing Machine (2006), also about men being resurrected as soldiers, although that does not appear to be a sequel or related to this. David Mitchells one other film of genre note was the action film City of Shadows (1986) about a cop pursuing his serial killer brother.
(Review copy provided courtesy of Ryan Kenner from Movies in the Attic).
Full film available online here:-