Hustler Squad (1976)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: The Dirty Half Dozen
Review Date: 6/23/14
Cast: John Ericson, Ramon Revilla, cameo by Vic Diaz

A World War II exploitation film about a female hit squad that infiltrates a Filipino brothel in order to assassinate several high ranking Japanese generals. The team consists of a convicted murderer, a nurse with a terminal disease, a rape victim seeking revenge, and a prostitute on the run. The team is led by the brash and hot-headed Major Stony Stonewell (John Ericson) and Paco Rodriguez (Ramon Revilla), who is the leader of the Filipino underground resistance. They train the girls in the arts of killing and survival, and then disappear for the rest of the film while the girls carry out their mission. Not surprisingly, things don't turn out so well for our doomed little band, and the downbeat ending adds some welcomed emotional weight.

The low budget production values are typical of the genre, but the film manages to maintain a somber and serious tone throughout, despite the exploitive nature of the story. It could have easily devolved into extended torture scenes, pillow fights, shower scenes, lurid sex, and other naughtiness, but it doesn't. It's also worth noting that the enemy isn't completely demonized, which introduces a nice twist of moral ambiguity and adds a slight touch of class. The acting is pretty weak and the dialog is awful, but it's fun to see the girls in action, and there's a palpable sense of tension, dread, and desperation. It's not a great film by any means, but I appreciated the sincere and gritty treatment of its racy and absurd premise.