Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Big Hit Movie Review

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 1 May 1998.
Republished here with minor editorial adjustments that do no affect content.

At first I wonder how one knows that The Big Hit is an action comedy functioning almost as a satire. It was not billed that way in advertisements and certainly the people associated with the film have never delved into comedy. Director Kirk Wong is best known for a Jackie Chan vehicle, Crime Story, which is considered one of Chan’s only serious films. Executive producer John Woo takes his action very seriously with such films as last year’s Face/Off and the internationally acclaimed The Killer. The actors, Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips and Bokeem Woodbine are generally billed as ‘serious’ actors. Maybe the only evidence is the fact that the film is so campy, so cheesy and so lame that it could only be a satire. Contrary to that argument, the same cannot be said for Waterworld.

The fact remains, that the film is generally considered a satire, so I suppose my appreciation for this type of satire is a little sour. Take Robert Rodriguez’ From Dusk Till Dawn – it’s campy and most certainly meant to be that way, but it doesn’t work. Both that film and The Big Hit have their comic moments, but overall they fail to please.

The opening scene is reminiscent of any John Woo gun blazing battle, the bullets are rampant, the body count doubles each minute, but the editing is so choppy that it is difficult to make sense of what’s happening. I prefer extended shots during action sequences, making it all seem more believable.

Wahlberg and Phillips star as partners in crime, hit men, who stop at nothing to get their hands on a large sum of money. Neither of them are likable characters, nor are any of the others in the film. Every character is a stereotype. Wahlberg plays Melvin Smiley, a whiny type whose flaw is that he wants to be liked by everyone. That is why he gives his girlfriend Chantel (a black woman who has her way with her men) all of his money. Chantel has a boyfriend, a muscle type, who doesn’t have one thought that generates above his biceps. Melvin’s fiancĂ©e, Pam (Christina Applegate) is a JAP who takes whatever money he has leftover. Pam’s parents are the most stereotypical Jewish parents imaginable. Think of “Southpark’s” Kyle’s mother times ten and you have Pam’s mother. Phillips plays Cisco, a fast talking, conniving Latino. Lastly there is a recently bankrupted Japanese millionaire who almost kills himself on his knees, with a sword at his chest, singing a Japanese song. He also has a lot of electronic gadgets. Each actor plays their respective one dimensional characters one dimensionally. There’s not much that can be said for that kind of acting.

The premise is not a bad one. The hit men decide to try and make a little extra money on the side by kidnapping the daughter of the former millionaire. Of course, they don’t know he’s gone bankrupt. They also don’t know that they are kidnapping the goddaughter of their employer, Paris (Avery Brooks). When Paris calls in Cisco to find out who has kidnapped her, Cisco rats out Melvin, apparently with no motive other than to save his own hide. Thus begins ‘the big hit.’

An absolutely low budget script invades the ears throughout the film. The villains play almost as badly as the worst of the Jackie Chan villains. There is, however, an amusing subplot involving a nerdy, zit faced video store clerk who harasses Melvin for not returning King Kong Lives. Of course you can predict where the final showdown will be. In the video store we catch a glimpse of Melvin’s photo on the wall as a ‘truant’ and a large photo of Woodbine’s character, Crunch, for being a valued customer in the adult section. The most hilarious scene involves Melvin and the kidnap victim sharing a sexually heated moment while massaging and stuffing a raw chicken.

This film, if nothing else, proves that Asian action films have hit big in America. Where else can an otherwise renowned genre be completely ruined?

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