The Big Hit

The Big Hit is a fairly enjoyable movie, if you're willing to check your brain at the door. Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch fame) is a hit man with a serious self-esteem problem: he can't stand being disliked by anyone. He is therefore taken advantage of by all his acquaintances: his fiancee Pam Schulman (Christina Applegate), his money-grubbing girlfriend Chantel (Lela Rochon), and his hit buddies Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), and Gump (Robin Dunne). As a result, he ends up being short on cash and reluctantly joins a kidnapping scheme planned by Cisco to raise some fast capital.

The kidnapping itself goes smoothly, but then things start to fall apart when the kidnappee, Keiko Nishi (China Chow), is discovered to be the god daughter of Paris (Avery Brooks), the hit men's boss. Unaware that Cisco is really behind the kidnapping, Paris makes Cisco personally responsible for finding the kidnappers.

Cisco then tries to frame his co-workers to escape Paris' wrath, but he finds Smiley, who suddenly sheds his psychological problems aside, a tough customer to deal with. Complicating the matter for Smiley is the fact that his relationship with Pam is on the verge of breakup, Keiko falls for him and wants to run away along with him, and his girlfriend Chantel is about to leave town with all his money.

The energy in the film is high and that's the best part. The action sequences are choreographed well, but unlike most other movies done in this "Hong Kong" style (the Director is Che-Kirk Wong and John Woo is one of the executive producers), the time spent on such sequences is much too short and, for lack of a better word, Hollywood-ised.

The film's attempts at humour work sometimes and fail miserably at others. All such attempts, from the body bag jokes to Crunch's newfound low-maintenance lover have their moments, but it's either already been done, taken too far, or not explored adequately. There is very little correlation between the action and the comedy which, given the style of the movie, is highly incongruous. Even though there is some clever parody and satisfactory toilet humour, it is present mostly in the dialogue and not in the action sequences, which is also incongruous. A nice idea, which could be pursued more thoroughly in a more sophisticated movie is one where people are shown getting out of impossible situations by the means of an action replay, which in hindsight is shown to be quite plausible.

Wahlberg's portrayal of Melvin Smiley is what makes this is a difficult movie to watch. He doesn't come off as quite the blundering fool he's supposed to be, but neither does he have the charisma of a Jackie Chan or an Arnold Schwarzenegger, for that matter. Come to think of it, John Cusack, who also played a hit man in Grosse Point Blank, would've been a much better choice for Smiley's role. Lou Diamond Phillips is great as a villain, hamming it up Gary Oldman style. The rest of the characters don't do much. I thought most of the music in the actual film was unnecessarily bad, and I actually missed the rap version of Stayin' Alive which was played in the commercials for the film.

The Big Hit, I suspect, is going to be one in a long line of movies from Hollywood that attempt to capitalise on the market share of Hong King action/comedy genre, and I think it's going to be even worse than the current obsession with film noir. It remains to be seen what the relative ranking of The Big Hit will be when all the dust settles. And that's the truth, even if you can't handle it. Worth the matinee fare.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||