Sony // 1998 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 19th, 2002
Nothing's more dangerous than a few nice guys...with a little time to kill.
Before Mark Wahlberg became a really big star (we're talkin' before Three Kings and Tim Burton's remake of Planet Of The Apes) he was featured in the Wesley Snipes/John Woo produced action comedy The Big Hit. A relative bomb upon initial release, The Big Hit just didn't seem to gel with audiences expectations. Or, it could be that no one was hyped about seeing a movie co-starring Lou Diamond Phillips (Bats), Bokeem Woodbine (Almost Heroes), and the ever versatile Antonio Sabato, Jr. (uh...anyone ever heard of Karate Rock?). Also starring Elliot Gould (Ocean's 11), Christina Applegate (Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead) and Lela Rochon (Waiting To Exhale), The Big Hit arrives on DVD as part of Columbia's "Superbit" DVD line.
Poor Melvin Smiley (Wahlberg). All he wants is for people to like him. Of course, that's sort of tough when you're an underworld contract killer. Melvin works with a ragtag group of assassins (Sabato, Jr., Woodbone), plus the pushy Cisco (Phillips) who often takes advantage of Melvin's nice guy image. The group is hired by the menacing Paris (Avery Brooks, Deep Space 9), a crime lord who speaks sharply and carries a big gun. Melvin is engaged to the Jewish and abrasive Pam (Applegate) but has a little fling on the side with Chantel (Rochon), a bitchy woman who is only using Melvin for his money. When Melvin and his cohorts make the decision to kidnap a wealthy Japanese business man's daughter and hold her for ransom, they think they're about to be rolling in the dough. What they don't know is that the young girl is their boss's Goddaughter! Now everyone's sweating bullets as Melvin tries to set things straight before HE'S on the list for the next big hit!
The Big Hit is sort of the poor man's Quentin Tarantino/Hong Kong action flick. The fingerprints of Asian filmmaking are all over this movie. There are lots of big shoot outs and slow-motion sequences, absurd action scenes that involve cars falling out of trees, and a fair amount of witty banter that's supposed to produce a "gee wiz, ain't that clever!" response from the audience.
Personally, I didn't find The Big Hit to be neither witty nor clever. I did, however, find it to be very loud. And explosive. There are lots of action sequences in this movie. People seem to die sixteen times, then pop back up to kill again. The Big Hit is the action movie equivalent of a Salvador Dali painting; you sort of know what's happening, but for some reason it still doesn't make much sense. How can a guy be blown up two or three times yet still live? After all, this isn't Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. This is, supposedly, the real world. As if throwing plausibility out the door wasn't enough, the movie also doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a comedy? An action movie? A witty dialogue-driven film? A romance? A slapstick farce? It's all of this and more...and none of it comes together as well as it should.
Okay, I'll buy that the action scenes are all well executed and for that reason alone the movie may be worth seeing. But it falls completely flat when it comes to characterization. Christina Applegate and her character's parents (including the usually funny Elliot Gould) are all Jewish, and by god the screenwriters will make sure you realize this by making them "kvetch" and "oy" for all they're worth. Bokeem Woodbine's character Crunch has just discovered the fine art of masturbation (a skill which I perfected 15 years ago and have won numerous awards for since). First of all, I don't buy that man in his late 20s has just now learned how to shuck his corn. Secondly, I also don't buy that anyone in their right mind would prefer masturbation over sexual intercourse with a mutual partner. But lo and behold, it happens in this movie. Lou Diamond Phillips as the grotesquely Hispanic Cisco (complete with front gold tooth) is so over the top that instead of making me laugh, I just elicited frustrated groans. As for Mark Wahlberg, well...let's just say this character isn't much of a stretch for him.
In retrospect, I think that Hollywood has officially won out the "hit man with a heart" genre.
But maybe I'm missing the point. The Big Hit wasn't made to cater to those with discerning movie tastes (and the good Lord knows I'm not part of that elite grouping). I think the crowd this movie was produced for are people that say the word "like" sixteen times in a sentence and enjoy watching TV shows like World's Wildest Police Videos and re-runs of The A-Team. I can't say that I really liked The Big Hit, but I can say that any movie with Elliot Gould dressed as a 23-year-old can't be all that bad. Or can it?
The Big Hit: Superbit is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This new Superbit edition of the film looks very crisp and clean with nary an once of edge enhancement to be seen. Dirt, grain, and imperfections are all non-existent with color patterns looking very bold and bright and black levels well-saturated. I don't know what the original DVD edition of this film looked like, but I'm guessing that any flaws were cleaned up well for this Superbit edition. This is easily a reference quality disc.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and DTS Surround, both in English. Either of these soundtracks will give your home theater a thorough and shaky workout. There are some excellent moments of directional use in this film, and the bulk of the soundtrack is often filtered through all of the channels for long spans of time. The dialogue, effects, and techno-pop music are all clear and free of any distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean.
For those of you not paying attention, Columbia's Superbit titles feature heightened sound and video components -- but not one single extra feature (unless you call the fancy DVD case a "feature").
If you were to peer in the encyclopedia and look up the definition for "mindless entertainment," you'd find a big old picture of The Big Hit right next to the words. While this isn't a terrible movie, it's not a particularly good one either. As usual, Columbia has done a nice job on this Superbit disc, though if you're looking for supplements you should stick with the original DVD release.
Time for this movie to sleep with the fishes. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R