The Hit


Year 1984

John Hurt as   Braddock  
Terence Stamp as Willie Parker
Tim Roth as Myron
Laura del Sol as Maggie
Fernando Rey as Senior Policeman  
 
Director - Stephen Frears
Screenwriter - Peter Prince
Cinematographer   - John A. Alonzo
Credits Music - Eric Clapton

There's a reason that I don't watch too many "recent" movies. They're mostly, in the word of Jonathan Winters, "gar-bahge'." Same plot, a few new lines of dialogue, new faces if you're lucky, a heavy reliance upon clichéd plot twists, and a burdensome dose of special effects.

Avatar is big at the box office right now. I saw the previews. All I could think of was, "Which one's 'Batty'?" Other people have said it's Fern Gulley meets Dune. Sigh, another trite effort. I finally saw it on cable. It IS Fern Gulley meets Dune!

But this is a commentary about The Hit. An Englishman squeals on his mob pals in court and high-tails it to Spain. Ten years later, they send a hit man for him. The majority of the story deals with bringing the man back for execution.

The first time I saw the movie, I'd missed the first half hour and had a pleasurable time fitting together the pieces of the puzzle while I watched some sort of morality play. The violence was brutal, but the interplay among the characters was multi-layered. At least I kept thinking that there was a depth to them that I'd missed by coming in a good way through.

This time I watched the movie from the beginning hoping to catch some of that subtle, subliminal motivation. Alas, there's no deft touch here. Everything is laid out A-B-C. The characters aren't deep, just pretentious. Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) is pretending to be deluding himself. Braddock (John Hurt) is pretending to be in control. Myron (Tim Roth) is pretending to be a cowboy. Maggie (Laura del Sol) is pretending to be a hard case prostitute.

Throughout the movie come the revelations. Willie is deluding himself. Braddock is in control. Myron is a thug. Maggie is a selfish user. So much for layers – onions or parfaits.

It is a shame really. When you come in halfway through the movie, you actually care about the characters and wonder what happened to get each one to this point. When you see the movie from the beginning, you find that they did it to themselves with eyes wide open.

Oh, there are some scenes where the ol' exposition wraps you severely about the head and shoulders and that's where the movie is at its best. The problem is that the scenes repeat themselves over and over again.

How many times can you listen to Willie say he's at peace with himself? How many times can Braddock give you his glinty eye? How many times can Myron open his mouth and trip over his tongue? How many times can Maggie show how jaded and self-centered she is? Dozens.

Maybe there was supposed to some sort of karma transference like there was in Performance. I didn't get that feeling though and Performance is a better movie, anyway.

Maggie is the most pathological of all of the characters. She causes death and blames others for her indiscretions. She attempts to sow discord and no one cares. She blames others and never herself. I wanted to see Braddock kill her over and over and over again. Of all of the characters, she was the one who deserved execution.

Not that Braddock was any great shakes as a killer elite. He leaves bodies and cars all the way from where he abducts Willie to a few miles from the Spanish border. But, thanks to John Hurt, you want Braddock to survive. Even at his dumbest he's still worth rooting for.

So why is this one not too shabby? Well, it tried to be different. It tried to make cardboard people seem three dimensional. It just didn't know how.

The scenery is gorgeous. At no time did you feel anything except that you were in a foreign land. Points added for keeping you, the viewer, in an uncomfortable position of being under someone else's control.

The music is good as well. I'm not a big Clapton fan. To me, his success was built on the backs of Charles Burnett (a.k.a. Howlin' Wolf) and Cream's Jack Bruce. He acknowledged Howlin' Wolf but I always felt that he left Jack Bruce in the lurch. The song he composed for the opening credits of The Hit, though, seemed liked a genuine, heart felt effort. Paco de Lucia's flamenco guitar played the score throughout the movie and fittingly set the pace of the road trip.

If you've never seen John Hurt before or can't place him (the original alien popped out of his stomach), then this movie is a show piece for him that's worth a look. Just watch it once every fifty years or so though, or his character gets old.

Chick flick potential? I can't tell. Women who like Chicago and Pretty Woman and movies where dead-beat women are lauded for getting the hang of living in the gutter will probably like it. So will those who like shallow character studies or who enjoy watching good actors making the best out of meager material.


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