This memorable drama helped bring British director Stephen Frears back from the limited opportunities of television (where he spent 13 years after making his promising debut feature, Gumshoe) and into the ranks of world-cl... more »ass filmmakers. Driven by the self-confident charisma of Terence Stamp, the vicious charm of John Hurt, and a fascinating debut performance by Tim Roth, The Hit concerns a criminal informant (Stamp) on ice for the past decade in Spain. Found out by the mobster who wants revenge on him, Stamp's character is apprehended by a pair of hit men who have to escort him to Paris. Along the way, the serene abductee, having become a bit enlightened during his ten-year retreat, seems not to worry about death or anything else. It's his overseers who feel the strain of their imminent task of spilling his blood. Smart, very funny, and very unconventional, The Hit is also a treat to look at as Frears enjoys the expanse of the big screen again. --Tom Keogh« less
Criterion Dusts Off a Neglected Existentialist British Gangs
Thomas Plotkin | West Hartford CT, United States | 04/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A British gangster turns informer and testifies against a dockful of his mates; as sentence is handed down, the crew gaze at him and burst into song -- Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..." Years later, living a placid exile in a sleepy Spanish village, the informer gets a knock on the door, and two univited guests from his homeland show up; one is a jittery soccer hooligan, the other, is, well, white-suited, sunglasses wearing, and almost silent -- the Angel of Death and his acolyte. Their job is to drive the informer several hundred miles to the French border, where he will be delivered to one of those who vowed revenge and is now free. The catch? The informer goes smilingly and willingly. He has known this day would come, and has spiritually prepared himself for it. As the three journey north, his cheerful composure and penchant for cockeny existentialist philosophizing and non-stop chatter begins to crack the facade of the killers who are transporting him; and then everything starts to go very, very wrong. The question is: Has the informer had a conversion experience, or is he a seasoned hustler who has devised a brilliant survival gambit?
Stephen Frears, not yet a hack, directed this fabulous example of BritNoir in the mid-'80's, where it was barely exhibited in the US. The sun-drenched Spanish locations are a special joy, contrasting with the increasingly grim story, and Frears builds up an admirable amount of tension, leading to explosive bursts of orchestrated violence. This film is genuinely unpredictable, thanks in large part to a literate, Pinter-esque script, the fact that the action is character-generated, and three generations of great UK actors are on hand to deliver the crowning glory of the film, its performances, I've saved the best for last: Terence Stamp, in his return to the big screen after a lengthy absence, gives his greatest performance, better even than the much-vaunted "The Limey," as the smiling martyr. His charm and serenity un-nerve his would-be killers, and starts to un-nerve us as well; Tim Roth, in his first feature film, as the soccer hooligan driver on his very first hit; when you see this squirrely apprentice, you know that he is the weak link, and watch how Stamp zeroes right in on him because he sees this too. Watch also how Roth delivers a head-butt as though it was a daily occurrence. The Angel of Death -- John Hurt as the veteran assassin. He is the voluable, handsome, sun-tanned Stamp's polar opposite, he speaks monosyllabically, if at all, will not indulge his captive's fondness for philosophy, and is seemingly oblivious to all but the job at hand. He has no discernable personality, and Hurt, with his dry croak of a voice, shaded eyes, pasty white skin that seems to blanch from the Spanish sun, as though he's not used to daylight, and increasingly filthy white suit, makes him a frightening incarnation, keeping superhuman cool as a simple assignment falls apart and becomes a bloodbath. Not since Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West have I seen an actor do more with so few lines and an inexpressive visage.
Extra credit goes to Laura del Sol, veteran of Carlos Saura's flamenco musicals, as the gorgeous hostage the killers are forced to take on board in one of the film's escalating plot complications: she speaks not a word of English, but she incarnates a will to survive - and an instinctive loathing of the Hurt character - that marks her out as a Mediterranean life force, in contrast to Hurt's Northern European death-drive; just as Stamp's equanimity in the face of death begins to drive the Roth character nuts, her Magnani-like sexuality begins to take its toll on Hurt's impassive murderousness.
Anyway, if you want to see a genuine little sleeper of a movie, decked out with a great cast, you could do worse then The Hit. Criterion once again shows fabulous acumen in rescuing a great one from oblivion. A great addition to the British tradition of off-beat gangster movies, like Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and Performance."
Leave it to Artisan...
ptaylor_21 | Minneapolis, MN United States | 11/25/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Artisan is the worst!Having never seen this film, I was extremely excited to see that it was to be released on DVD finally...until I noticed that Artisan was going to release it. Sure enough, Artisan has done it again, offering The Hit in a pan & scan format. Surely this is not an action cheapie, and as such deserves better treatment than Artisan is putting out.If you don't care about format, ignore my review. If you do care, I suggest that you be careful buying any Artisan DVDs, as they are releasing loads of P & S titles these days.Would someone in authority please advise Artisan to raise their price point and release these films in a double-sided disc offering both formats, a la Warner Brothers?"
Death "is as natural as breathing. Why should we be scared?"
Dave | Tennessee United States | 04/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After reading all the reviews stating how awful the dvd quality of "The Hit" was, I decided to buy the vhs. This is easily one of the most original mob movies ever made, with an outstanding cast and awesome music by Paco De Lucia. Years ahead of its time in terms of style and violence, I can see how a brilliant film like this would influence directors like Quentin Tarantino.
The movie begins in London, 1973, where veteran criminal Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) betrays his friends in exchange for immunity from the court. Ten years later, in Spain, Parker is abducted from his peaceful village by a group of amateurs, who "sell" him to hitman Mr. Braddock (John Hurt) and his rookie assistant (Tim Roth). Braddock and his assistant have been hired by Parker's former "partners-in-crime" to kill Parker, but the more they talk to Parker, the more puzzled they are. Parker is a totally willing victim who doesn't even try to escape from them, and throughout the movie he has several opportunities. Braddock and his assistant also take a beautiful woman (Laura del Sol) hostage, not realizing the consequences this will have on their original "assignment". After getting to know Parker, Mr. Braddock and his assistant begin to have doubts about killing him, but the violent confrontation at the end shows that some characters were hiding their true feelings about the bleak situation.
Terence Stamp and John Hurt were awesome, as was Tim Roth in his impressive film debut. What sets this apart from other mob movies is that this film focuses on the inner conflict that rages inside hitmen when they discover that their "target" is actually a likable person. It also takes an interesting view on death itself. A film this brilliant certainly deserves a Criterion Collection dvd release, but until then I recommend the vhs version."
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 12/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Any quick synopsis of the plot may give you the idea that this is like so many independent films that came after it but its not. The three things that make this different and better are the three actors involved. The young hood who acts tough but really may not have the stomach for this kind of thing is Tim Roth, the true professional hit man who has little patience for his young accomplice and would be apprentice is John Hurt. And the target for the elaborate hit is the always exquisite Terence Stamp who knows it has been coming all the years and has become very philosophical, almost welcoming it when it finally appears. Stamp too was a pro and that makes both Hurt and Roth admire him, even revere him perhaps for accepting things like he does. There is action but most of it is character interaction, which is very good. Visually the most exciting scenes are in Spain where Stamp has been hiding it out in a very comfortable country villa, but the trip back to Paris presents several interesting villages and vistas. Frears later did Dangerous Liasons which I also like but this smaller film is my favorite of his primarily because of the Stamp character and Terence Stamp himself. If you've seen anything of his from Billy Budd to Fellinis Toby Dammit to Pasolinis Theorem to The Limey, you know he is one of the most interesting screen presences you will ever encounter, The Hit was made when he hadn't been seen in a picture for a while so the fact that the character he plays in The Hit has also been out of circulation for awhile gives the role an added dimension.
Later Reservoir Dogs made Tim Roth famous and for good reason but here you get his debut doing it all for the first time. And Hurt is always scary as hell like he's haunted with some knowledge about human nature that you nor I nor anyone will ever know about."
Paul Arnold | Los Angeles, CA | 03/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This early effort of Stephen Frears is a remarkable example of the film genre that it helped to inspire. Made in 1984, it is one of the early "road" films which has become a Hollywood cliche (interesting or unusual characters driving cross country, often shot in the desert: see Thelma & Louise, Wild at Heart, etc.)On the surface, this is a straightforward tale of a mafia style abduction and murder; and it can be viewed and enjoyed on this level only. Yet, when you look beyond the action and study the characters, the possibilities for the motivations and circumstances of their actions become infinite.I have viewed this movie many times, and I still am trying to decipher the subtext(s): Is Braddock intentionally making the job more complex than it needs to be? Does Willie (the intended victim) really believe in the spiritual peace he claims to have found, or is it just a pretext to stay alive long enough to save himself through trickery? Who exactly is the young Spanish girl?This is one of those films which can be viewed again and again, each time presenting something different to the viewer...."