Are you male, under 19, and have the attention span of an ant? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions read no further. The Big Hit is a movie for you: go see it now. For the rest, please read on and see if you’ll enjoy this movie or not.
The Big Hit is the type of movie that requires you to step into the theatre with the correct mindset: brain in the “off” position and ready for some stupid fun.
Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) is a hit man with a heart of gold (wait, I think I’ve heard this one before) who is a human ATM machine for two women: his fiancee (Christina Applegate) and his mistress (Lela Rochon). Melvin wants to live a regular life while keeping up with his hit man job – I’ve heard this one before also in Grosse Pointe Blank. Along with his two women; he has a group of hit men that are reasonably loyal to him.
Among his “teammates” are Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), Gump (Robert Dunne), and Vinnie (Antonio Sabato Jr.). After an adrenaline-pumping opening reminiscent of a MTV video cut and slashed with scenes of violence, we are pushed into the main “story” of The Big Hit. Cisco has picked up a moonlighting assignment for the group. He wants to bring in Melvin, but Melvin doesn’t want to moonlight knowing that their boss Paris (Avery Brooks) would kill all of them if he found out.
After finding that his finances are not as healthy as he would like them to be, Melvin hesitantly signs up with Cisco to go on the moonlighting gig. The plan is to kidnap the daughter (China Chow) of a wealthy Japanese film producer and get some ransom. Sounds easy enough, but there are complicating matters: the daughter is the goddaughter of Paris and Paris is not happy about the kidnapping. Cisco is able to double-cross Melvin and is now out to kill Melvin to save his own butt.
There are two running gags in The Big Hit. One involves Melvin, a nerdy video store clerk, and an overdue copy of King Kong Lives. The other involves Crunch, self-love, and is too explicit to mention in a review.
Mark Wahlberg is basically reviving his Dirk Diggler role from Boogie Nights in The Big Hit. His Melvin is constantly apologizing. It works for the beginning of the film but wears short halfway through. Lou Diamond Phillips with a silver-capped front tooth is hilarious as Cisco. China Chow is a superb newcomer; I hope to see her in more films soon. The scene with her reading a ransom note will have you on the floor laughing. The other roles are so minor I don’t need to mention them.
The saving grace for The Big Hit is the humor that is woven into the story. Director Che-Kirk Wong and writer Ben Ramsey know they don’t have a serious film in hand, so they ham it up. And they do a good job at it. This is an action film that knows that it’s stupid and doesn’t try at all to redeem itself by trying to be serious. Had a few other early 1998 action films taken the same route they would have been much better also (two to mention would be the horrible Firestorm and the wet Hard Rain.) Kudos to Wong and Ransey for keeping the cheeziness up while keeping the action rolling. Look for the scene with Wahlberg, a pair of garbage bags, his fiancee, the in-laws, a hostage, and a rude dog. This will have you laughing out loud.
The action is what anchors The Big Hit, though, and the two main action scenes are spaced somewhat far apart. The opening action sequence is marred by some MTV-style footage that serves only to disorientate the audience. The end action sequence is actually quite exciting. I loved the amazing car chase with Phillips and Wahlberg.
Worth mentioning is the production design by Taavo Soodor. The neighbourhood in which Melvin lives consists of houses that all look the same and neighbours that synchronously mow their lawns. Melvin’s house is bright and happy on the inside. His garage holds not only gardening tools but an arsenal of weapons that could arm a small army. The office of Paris is artsy and beautiful. The room that Chantel, Melvin’s mistress, lives in is satiny. The production design is top notch.
The Big Hit should be renamed The Moderate Strike; it’s funny when it doesn’t have action and has action where there is no plot. But when there is no humor, it runs dry, and there are some portions of The Big Hit where we’re just sitting around waiting for the next action sequence. If you have two hours to burn and it is matinee time at the local theatre catch The Big Hit. Otherwise wait for video.
Edited by Cher Johnson.