Chuck Norris ought to go back to the karate formula. He did much better with those films than he does with action movies.
His newest film is ''The Hitman,'' and it's a muddled, murky thing. It does have atmosphere, but it is also excessive and in some cases, badly acted.
It has an added liability in Michael Parks who, as a bad cop, talks like Eddie Murphy -- all the genitalia business. Murphy can get away with it. He's younger and funnier. Parks, at his age, simply sounds silly.
Norris plays a New York cop who is set up by his partner (Parks) and left for dead.
Like ''RoboCop,'' he doesn't die. He is restored to life, given a new name and sent undercover to Seattle, where he is engaged as a hit man for a Mafia chief. He is to remain at his job until he is
able to bring the Sicilian and the French crime kings together, then the police will take both of them.
Actually, they take three crime lords. There is also an Iranian kingpin. What we have here is a real ethnic mix, and you might think that the writers, with this kind of material, might do something good with it.
Norris' dress is interesting. His hair is greased, he wears the long black coat sported by the killers in ''Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man,'' and before that, the killers in Clint Eastwood's ''Pale Rider.''
* A New York cop, left for dead, assumes the identity of a professional hit man.
CAST: Chuck Norris, Michael Parks, Al Waxman, Alberta Watson, Salim Grant
DIRECTOR: Aaron Norris
RATING: R (violence, language)
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes