Take a Drink: for anything that would fit right in Miami Vice
Take a Drink: whenever Willie Parker says “Willie Parker”
Take a Drink: every time a gun is drawn
Take a Drink: whenever Tim Roth freaks out
Take a Drink: whenever John Hurt does something cold-blooded
Do a Shot: for not so veiled threats
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
When you hear the name Stephen Frears, you’re likely to think of prestige fare, like Dangerous Liaisons, Philomena, or The Queen. Or you may think of screwball misfires like Tamara Drewe or Lay the Favorite. When he began his career, though, you wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that he’d turn into the next Michael Mann.
Philomena would’ve been a tad different…
The Hit was Frears’ second film, coming right before his big breakout, My Beautiful Laundrette. Terrence Stamp is a low-level gangster, Willie Parker, who rats on his mates, sending them to prison. Their broken courtroom rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” is just a tad ominous, so it’s no surprise 10 years later when he’s kidnapped in Spain by a stone-faced hitman (John Hurt) and his hot-headed assistant (Tim Roth). Things get complicated when they’re required to off a witness (Bill Hunter) and take his young Spanish girlfriend (Laura del Sol) on the road with them.
Frears shows that he had style to spare at this point of his career, pairing with legendary cinematographer John A. Alonzo (Chinatown, Scarface) to deliver a film full of dramatic lighting, bright pastels, and album cover shots, backed by Eric Clapton’s guitar-shredding theme and a liberal dose of energetic flamenco cuts.
Goes well with gun fights.
The acting is sold across the board, with Stamp in particular doing a great job of conveying surprisingly glib confidence, Hurt exuding coldness and menace, and Roth showing an early iteration of his trademark volatility. Hunter, though, steals the screen with his brief, sad performance as a doomed gangster who knows his time has come. His scene just intensifies the feeling of unavoidable tragedy pervading the film, a feeling that finally manifests in the brutal, shocking finale. The Hit is a meditation on death and the various ways we react when it comes knocking… and the lies we tell ourselves about how we will when it does.
I understand how Frears is trying for something archetypal for his characters- providing almost no background and only the barest of motivation for them, but this also limits the power of his message. Our empathy is limited for this collection of criminals, and consequently, so is our shock or sorrow when they die.
There’s some pretty brutal dubbing at play here and there, particularly the Spanish gang at the beginning. I speak Spanish relatively fluently, and I don’t think they’re speaking that or any other human language.
Frankly, they sound like Minions.
The Hit is a stylish crime film that doubles as a rumination on death.