At a Texas barbecue, beautiful Angela de Vries (Yvette Mimieux) flirts with wealthy rancher Buddy McCormack (Keenan Wynn). Seemingly smitten, the pair go out horse riding together in the country, whereupon Angela suddenly shoots Buddy dead. For Angela is a professional assassin who carries out contract killings for the sleazy Roarke (Clu Gulager). Having found love in the form of Doug Reynolds (Dack Rambo), a handsome photographer unaware of her double life, Angela is more anxious than ever to finally walk away from her job. But Roarke and his associates have already lined up her next target.
Clearly sick of playing victimised sex kittens all the time, the radiantly lovely Yvette Mimieux scripted this ABC TV Movie of the Week herself as an opportunity to broaden her range. Hit Lady proved the first of only two self-penned vehicles from Mimieux, followed ten years later by the similarly atypical Obsessive Love (1984) wherein she portrayed a psychopath obsessed with her favourite soap star. Produced under the auspices of prolific trash TV mogul Aaron Spelling, this marked the sole directorial outing for Tracy Keenan Wynn, whose father Keenan Wynn put in a brief cameo. More active as a screenwriter on the likes of The Longest Yard (1974), The Drowning Pool (1975) and The Deep (1977), Wynn handles the suspense laden drama fairly well, though the film’s strengths derive largely from Mimieux. Her script is well written, sparse but evocative with a wry sense of humour despite a fatalistic tone all too predictable of a Seventies film. It allows the underrated actress a rare chance to segue from charming to sinister, tough to conflicted and ultimately tragic, between shimmying into an array of fabulous Seventies outfits. This stems from a period where Mimieux seemed to wear a bikini in her every film role, an opportunity Disney arguably squandered by Disney when they cast her in their enduringly oddball space opera, The Black Hole (1979).
Whereas films centred around male hitmen routinely focus on the mechanics and difficulties of the hit, this delves into the psychological toll taken on Angela who finds it necessary to build an empathic connection with her victims. Although Angela is able to justify killing Buddy given he was dope pusher, she struggles harder with her next target, union leader Jeffrey Baine (Joseph Campanella), who already lost his family in a suspicious car crash. This does not immediately prevent Angela from scrutinising Blaine’s life in order to discern the perfect traceless killing method. She embarks on a sexual liaison with Blaine as a prelude to murder but which eventually brings her to a moral crossroads. In a subplot that foreshadows Luc Besson’s later, more widely celebrated Nikita (1990), Angela also struggles balancing a happy domestic life with the demands of her dangerous profession. She genuinely loves Doug and is eager to help the struggling photographer build a successful career, something that makes the climactic sting in the tail that much more tragic.
Save for a nifty car chase with Angela evading a shotgun wielding rival, the film is low on thrills but compensates with psychological acuity and proves a brisk, efficient if unspectacular genre piece.