Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Big Hit (1998)

My one pet peeve when it comes to movie reviews (or anything in general for that matter) is the logic of disliking something because it isn't something else. I really don't think that Kirk Wong's assassin movie / comedy, The Big Hit, ever aspired to be anything more than a breezy, enjoyable film that just happened to contain lots of gunfire. However the internet being what it is, you'll find plenty of negative reviews whose only premise is that this film is lacking because it is not a Leon: The Professional or a Grosse Point Blank or a Ghost Dog.

I happen to love all three of those films but I am also smart enough to know that all film isn't created equal, nor do I necessarily have to enjoy one assassin-themed movie for the same reasons that I enjoy another.

Our film centers on the misadventures of hapless hitman Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) as he navigates through a maze of self-loathing, a money hoarding mistress (Lela Rochon), a clueless Jewish fiancee (Christina Applegate), and the eventual double and triple crosses that occur in any proper theatrical portrayal of life in organized crime.

Melvin is in the employ of the mysterious Mr. Paris (played to the hilt by a scenery chewing Avery Brooks) and works in conjuction with three other paid killers: the self-proclaimed leader, Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Vince (Antonio Sabato Jr.) and Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine). Any self-respecting action movie buff should grin with glee at that casting. Kirk Wong has done you the favor of casting a hunk or two so that the protests from your female significant other for watching this gem instead of Steel Magnolias again won't sting so much.

The teamwork of our gang of four leaves a lot to be desired. Melvin faces all of the real danger while his partners reap the benefits of his efficiency and bravado. As a matter of fact, Melvin's problem in life is that nearly everyone he knows rides roughshot over him because Melvin is deathly afraid of disappointing the people closest to him. Melvin is an assassin that wants to be liked but as Cisco humorously points out, assassins tend not to be well received in society.

Especially by the families of the people they've killed.

Eventually our intrepid assassins pursue an avenue they shouldn't and decide to earn extra money by kidnapping Keiko Nishi (the achingly cute, China Chow), the daughter of a recently bankrupted electronics mogul. Melvin naturally falls for Keiko in short order and it is only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose during the implausibly hysterical twist of fate and plot.

Everything is revealed all in due course and usually just in time for a kick-ass exchange of small calibre weapons fire.

If anything has hurt repeated viewing over the years, it is the fact that this movie is heavily laden with 90's references. Wahlberg engages in some precursor of the Gunkata from the film, Equilibrium, as his pistols seem to be the most effective while he is in the midsts of some breakdancing routine (I kid you not) and kids these days will probably not get the Spice Girls joke or the subplot concerning Melvin's overdue video rental.

Even so, this movie is absolutely worth your time.


Ash said...

Hey, you did the tags right! I click on "ASSASSINATION," and this and THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG show up. Good job.

Gotta admit, when I first saw THE BIG HIT I was 17, and I was expecting an action movie. I still remember enjoying it, but I wasn't quite able to get into the mindset where the masturbation workouts and the concern over cooking a kosher meal were a positive addition to the film. It's something I might have to revisit in the future.

J.T. said...

If you check out the deleted scenes on the DVD, you'll note that quite a bit of the more foul, base humor was thankfully left on the editing room floor.

As much as I enjoy this movie, the running gag about masturbation wears thin pretty quickly.

Still, the minor characters make this movie hilarious. I cannot watch the scene where Gump (Robin Dunne) explains how the Tracebuster works without laughing hysterically.