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This may be the OH JOHN RINGO NO of my review-writing life: an actually sort-of-positive note on the action film The Big Hit, a movie that made Roger Ebert's I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Violence and stereotypes ahoy!



Hong Kong Lives. So does King Kong. Yes, as in King Kong Lives…a 1988 film so non-memorable that most people will see it for the first time when they go to see The Big Hit, the highly Hong Kong-styled ultra-violence epic.

Ah, Hong Kong! For decades it has been the wildest filmmaking market in the world, and Hollywood has spent the Nineties bringing Hong Kong’s talent and filmmaking ways to our shores (Reservoir Dogs pays major tribute to Hong Kong’s City On Fire). The Big Hit is directed and mostly produced by South China Sea filmmakers, and they concentrate on violence, style, violence, music, and violence. They don’t worry too much about the story, but what results is still better than Most Wanted.

The Big Hit follows four hit men – more like hit boys, they’re so young – who make a business of disposing of lives and bodies. Among the gang of four are Lou Diamond Phillips, who’s a riot, and Mark Wahlberg, who’s a pushover. Guess what? Wahlberg’s actually pretty sweet…that is, for a hit man. I haven’t yet seen Boogie Nights, but I can see what people are paying attention to him.

They work for Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: here he’s a rich and Shakespeare-spouting controller of something that’s never really specified. To earn a quick million, the boys decide to kidnap a Japanese businessman’s daughter. The “Oops”-inducer, though, is that she turns out to be the goddaughter of Brooks, who orders Phillips to hunt down the men responsible – and as Brooks doesn’t know Phillips is in on it, Phillips has to act like he’s not. Soon, Wahlberg is the target of his former buddies, while he and the strong-willed kidnapped girl get to understand each other. (Yes, they fall in love.) And for some reason, one of the MacGuffins in the film is a videotape of King Kong Lives!

Here’s what marks Hit as Hong Kong-styled product:

• It’s set in the most intense part of the underworld, taking care of the ugliest business. This is not a life-affirming film.
• It’s really non-sincere and non-sentimental. If Speed had been made in Hong Kong, the bus would have blown up with everyone onboard, including some of the heroes.
• As you’ve seen in the ads, the violence and movement in general is acrobatic almost to the point of overkill. Even how a video store clerk wields his phone is over-stylized that way.
• And every character is broadly drawn – most obnoxiously Mark Walhberg’s potential in-laws, who are flaming Jewish stereotypes. His fiancée Christina Applegate is a high-pitched Jewish American Princess from Queens, her mother’s even more extreme, and father Elliot Gould is dressed like a ’70s refugee. Insanely, this stereotypical family was the most uncomfortable part of the film for me – in a movie featuring characters who comment on dismembered bodies!

There’s more: the young black hit man is a sex maniac (with a twist I can’t talk about in a family publication). The L.A. suburbanites live in houses all built and color-coordinated the same way. Wahlberg’s girlfriend and mistress are two different kinds of shrews. The Japanese businessman is ready at the drop of a hat to commit ritual suicide (complete with ancient-looking robes and sword). And his college-age daughter is dressed more like a Catholic high school girl than a collegiate, which ties into a Lolita sort of fantasy a lot of guys have.

I need to confess something: this is not at all a great film, and it ain’t for the whole family – in fact, it’s pretty depraved – but I laughed myself silly during it. I’m probably more forgiving to movies that make me laugh than maybe I should be. The Big Hit is ultra-exuberant and often disgusting, and while not exactly light on its feet, it’s not weighed down like the Hong Kong-wannabe action flick Broken Arrow. And I’m sure it beats in entertainment value the other action flick now playing, Black Dog, which is not my kind of action film. This is.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
yendi
Jun. 14th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I adore The Big Hit, and make no bones about it. This is one of the movies (along with Josie and the Pussycats) in IHHHTM that Ebert just blows it on. The cast is great, the humor's insanely over the top, and the entire video store scene is just a blast.
happyspector
May. 19th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I took a date to this movie, a highly intelligent though rather down-homesy sheltered and naive girl I met my first year of college, at the height of my fixation on Hong Kong action phase, which for the most part she very amusedly and put up with. I remember her extreme delight at the movie being an action-comedy... as I'm sure you know, a cross-pollination by no means new to pop culture at the time. After that final knife-fight sequence, I mentioned how I'd love to learn more martial arts, and she about sent me to cloud-nine by saying very sincerely that she could imagine me as a comedic kung-fu action hero (ala Mark Walberg's character, 'cept with better taste in women). We later joined an on-campus kick-boxing class together (which in a way, set the scene for one of my favorite boxing-related anecdotes), which is how I first discovered how sex and violence CAN BE a winning combination in real life (though kept friendly where it's supposed to be... Night Owl and Silk Spectre had the right idea).
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )