Sony // 1998 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Rogers (Retired) // June 20th, 2000
"The truth is I can't stand the idea of them not liking me anymore. I can't stand the idea of anybody not liking me, okay? There, that's the truth."
"Yo Mel. The hundred or so people you murdered in the past five years more than likely have relatives who don't think too highly of you."
Timing is, as they say, everything. So often, scheduling makes or breaks something. A moment, an event, a maneuver. And, of course, movies. The Big Hit is one such movie; released in spring of 1998 to lukewarm, at best, box office returns. Early in the curve, if it had been held another twelve months, it would have probably seen much better results. The audiences weren't quite prepared yet.
Just six months later, Rush Hour would be released to enthusiastic response. The Hong Kong action influence would be fully underlined by Rush Hour's success, and would have served The Big Hit well. With other strong Hong Kong action influenced films seeing similar stellar results (such as The Matrix, and most recently Mission Impossible 2), I suspect audiences might find a few things they'll be more interested in now when they take a look at The Big Hit.
Starring Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, Fear, Three Kings), The Big Hit chronicles the tale of one Melvin Smiley. An underworld hitman, Melvin has all the moves of a lethal predator; grace, strength, speed, cunning. Yet Melvin is also the ubiquitous 'nice guy'. He's the kind of nice guy that blow dries the guest hand towel before carefully folding it back over the rack after using it. In fact, he's so nice, most of the people who figure prominently into his life take advantage of him for his overall pleasant and giving demeanor.
These include Lou Diamond Phillips (Supernova, Young Guns, La Bamba) as fellow hitman Cisco, and Christina Applegate (TVs Married with Children and Jessie, Mars Attacks!) as his fiancee Pam. Cisco is flamboyant, arrogant, stylish, and over the top. Pam is sweet, calculating, eager, and very self-absorbed. Cisco abuses Melvin's niceness by muscling him out of earned bonuses at 'work'; Pam borrows more and more money for her parents' needs (plastic surgery, failed businesses).
Wahlberg is cast perfectly as Melvin Smiley. He has the right physical features and abilities for the role; able to perform the film's demanding stunt and action sequences without requiring heavy use of editing or stand-ins. But, as audiences are finding out as he goes on to bigger and bigger roles, Wahlberg also has the acting talents for it too. His Melvin is nice without being sappy, polite without being smarmy. It never looks like Melvin is trying to be nice; Melvin really just is a nice guy.
The rest of the cast is up to the task of a comedic action film. Also making appearances are Bokeem Woodbine (The Rock, Freeway, Almost Heroes) as fellow hitman Crunch, and Avery Brooks (TV's Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Spencer For Hire, American History X) as the master underworld boss Melvin works for, as well as Antonio Sabato Jr and Elliot Gould. The focus is always on comedic timing and menacing style; using situation humor (a nice guy hitman, et cetera...) to counterpoint pop culture references to good effect. The cast carries it off well, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable light action effort.
A few words on the plot. Simple enough really. After just another 'day at the office', Cisco convinces Melvin to help out on a little 'side job' he's got lined up for the weekend. Problem is, after the job's been started; the businessman's daughter they kidnapped happens to be the daughter of their boss' best friend. Just wrap a lot of great action and truly humorous comedy around it, use great actors, and you've got a solid popcorn flick to enjoy. And that's what The Big Hit is; a great popcorn flick.
In any event, the disc is a solid special edition. The video and audio transfers are uniformly excellent. Video is anamorphic 1.85:1, and is absolutely wonderful. As a recent film, there's little excuse for problems or shortcomings with how the disc's transfer looks; consumers are in good hands here. Colors are solid, edges natural, artifacting and other image problems far from making appearances.
The audio is almost as good as the video. In fact, except for one brief section, perhaps twenty seconds in length, the audio mix is extremely well done. The sound field is dynamic and explosive; delivering spatial and directional effects as well as it handles dialogue and quieter moments. Voices come from the left or right, and move as the camera moves; explosions and fight sounds have depth and position around you. Action movies are always a chance to stretch your receiver's legs; The Big Hit delivers.
Also included on the disc, as it is a special edition, are a good mix of extras. There are two; a director's/producer's audio commentary, and then a separate screenwriter's commentary track. Neither is a particularly great commentary, both being merely adequate. There are periods of silence, sometimes the speakers can wander off into unknown territory, and generally neither engages the viewer with interesting information often. Additionally, the movie's audio is mixed to mute while listening to the commentaries, so it's impossible to try to follow the film as you listen.
Aside from the above, the disc also presents three very rough and unfinished deleted scenes; these are typical of what deleted scenes usually offer, but one in particular plugs rather nicely into the film. Finally, the theatrical trailer rounds out the offerings.
The brief audio problem I mention above is a section of the mix where the lead dialogue track seems to attenuate. During these moments, some of the dialogue drops in volume and becomes moderately harder to discern; the problem corrects itself quickly and the rest of the disc has no problems of this sort.
Also, it is a bit unfortunate the commentaries are only average; however, not all people are as interesting to listen to as others. Directors and producers and screenwriters are people too; some of them are the kind of people you'd like to spend hours talking with at a party, and others aren't. Not really a fault, just something that's there.
Action fans would be well served to take a look at The Big Hit; with the recent huge success of Hong Kong influenced films in the American market, I suspect more than a few of you would agree will probably enjoy this effort. The disc is a solid special edition, and will hold up nicely.
Review content copyright © 2000 David Rogers; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director/Producer Audio Commentary
* Screenwriter Commentary
* Three Deleted Scenes
* Theatrical Trailer