The Hit (1984)

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Freddie Stuart, Ralph Brown, A.J. Clarke, Terence Stamp
Ex-gangster Willie Parker has betrayed his former "colleagues" and now lives in Spain where he thinks he can hide from their vengeance. But one day, ten years later, two hitmen (Braddock ...
  • 08 Mar 1985 Released:
  • 28 Apr 2009 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Peter Prince Writer:
  • Stephen Frears Director:
  • N/A Website:
Good points; bad points7/10
I just watched this movie for the third time, and for the first time on DVD. I then read the reviews on this website. The reviews all contained good points but I was surprised at two things:

1) Very few reviews were from the United States. It appears that Europeans and Australians are far more aware of this film than we are here in America, which is our loss;

2) (Spoiler?) Nobody mentioned or questioned why hit man John Hurt did NOT kill Laura Del Sol. In real life, there would have been no hesitation by the professional killer : she would have been eliminated quickly.....and, of course, the story - had it been real - would have ended quite differently from the film.

Outside of that last point, I thought the film contained real characters exhibiting many of their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike most gangster films of the past 35 years, this one had little action and concentrated more on the principal characters. It would be too talky for most young audiences of today.

Other highlights:

Nice Spanish scenery and flamenco soundtrack. Good opening instrumental by Eric Clapton.

Interesting to see Roth in one of his earliest roles, although it's been a familiar one for him: an annoying punk.

An ending that wasn't predictable.

One disappointment:

Why wasn't this DVD presented on widescreen? Why was this formatted-to-TV? The transfer isn't bad but with the great scenery, why couldn't we see it all? There is no excuse for that.

Summary: a good, solid film but more for mature adults who don't mind a slower pace and can appreciate a lot of subtle things.
Minor masterpiece8/10
A petty gangster rats out his accomplices and goes into protective custody with his new-found penchant for books and thought, until one day retribution arrives in the form of two assassins. The gangster, now a philosopher who claims he is ready for death as just another step in the progression of life, is taken for a long ride across Spain so that the crime boss he ratted out can witness vengeance inflicted.

Talk about your minor masterpieces! This has long been one of my favorites ever since I stumbled across it on one of the premium cable movie channels many years ago.

It's hard to put my finger on just what it is, exactly, that makes this movie great. One can hardly point to substantial character development, because the characters (with one exception) never really become true flesh and blood to us. The plot meanders, truth be told. The dialog is clever but rarely brilliant. So what is it? Certainly the locations and the music, the general ambiance, add a lot to the movie. The car, the clouds of dust, the brilliant Spanish sun, the arc of azure sky, the arid hills, the sultry guitar: these things alone can turn a marginal movie into a good one. Exterior shots predominate, and with good reason. The director knew how to combine simple, pure elements--strong, bold colors, bright sunlight, stark images, and exactly the right sounds--in ways that seem to speak of things larger than themselves.

But I don't mean to make the rest of the movie sound marginal. The characters aren't terribly well fleshed-out, but they are interesting nevertheless. Hurt's character, the silent, wary predator, comes across as a bit stilted, but he makes it work with his craggy face, his angular body, his croaking voice, and especially his eternally weary eyes. (Few characters could have taken on this role without looking ridiculous.) Stamp is also stilted yet convincing as the amateur philosopher and erstwhile rogue at peace with himself and his fate. Roth, even more constricted in his role, also manages to put across a convincing if thoroughly unsavory persona. These actors don't have much to work with, and yet none of them ever slips into crudely cartoonish performances. They remain genuine, to the degree their characters allow.

The real surprise is the girl, Laura del Sol. Her obvious physical charms, barely stuffed into a very small dress, lead the viewer (the pop-eyed male viewer, anyway) into writing her off as mere eye candy, until the confrontation between her and Hurt, and the cruel, angry glow in her eyes, brings it home that here perhaps is the highest talent in this cast. It is she alone who stands out, at the end of the movie, as someone we can recognize and identify with; someone who isn't a mere cypher. What a pity that she has done so little else in English-speaking movies.

Whether you find the ending of this movie satisfying probably says something about your own personality, and how you view concepts like loyalty, crime, vengeance, and justice. I won't go into my own reactions. I'll only say that, when the movie is over, you'll find that, not only have you watched an absorbing movie, but you probably have things to think about.
Brilliant, top-notch movie8/10

I can't believe I'm discovering this little gem only now, about 20 years late! Shame on me. How comes...?

Now this is the kind of stuff I like. Intelligent, brilliantly written and directed, with mindblowing actors' performances by Tim Roth, John Hurt and Terence Stamp (gee I never realized before that Stamp was SUCH a talented actor!! Shame on me again!), a real personality, an outstanding camera work, and multiple references to the cinema history... all this with just the right amount of dignity, not too much, just the right amount. And an original and tasteful use of hispanic music, that is 100% adequate.

"The hit" is suspenseful, unpredictable, funny, challenging.

Makes me wonder how many times Tarentino viewed it... he obviously viewed it several times, for sure.

Great flick. I can't believe that there are only 395 votes for this movie on Imdb, meaning that only a very selected group of people actually had the luck to come across this little diamond. Such a shame. I bet many Coen fans would really love "The hit" if they only had the opportunity to view it...
The great lost Brit crime movie?5/10

Forget the flashy but empty "cor blimey guv" Brit crime movies of the last few years like 'Snatch' and 'Sexy Beast'. Apart from 'Croupier' and 'Gangster No. 1', most of them aren't worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the brilliant but largely forgotten 'The Long Good Friday', 'Mona Lisa', and the most underrated of all, 'The Hit'. Terence Stamp, playing a character not too dissimilar from the one he later portrays in 'The Limey', is a former gangster who grassed up his criminal mates years earlier. Now living in semi-retirement in Spain he is unexpectedly kidnapped by two hoods (John Hurt and, in one of his earliest screen roles, Tim Roth) who plan on taking him to Paris and killing him as punishment for betraying the criminal code. Of course, things don't go quite as planned and along the way the sexy Laura del Sol gets forced against her will to accompany them. This is a very fresh and interesting film that is more character than action based so might not appeal to the Guy Ritchie crowd. It's their loss. Stamp is just brilliant and his interaction with Hurt and Roth makes this a must see movie. The supporting cast also includes the legendary Fernando Rey ('The French Connection') as the cop on their trail, and Aussie veteran Bill Hunter as a crim in the wrong place at the wrong time. 'The Hit' is one of the most overlooked British movies of the last twenty years, and highly recommend viewing for all discerning movie buffs.
To close for comfort.9/10
Ten years ago Willie Parker testified in court against some of his criminal buddies and ever since then, has been waiting for them to settle the score while hiding out in Spain. Soon enough his tracked down by two hit men, the slick professional Braddock and his raw rookie Myron. Who plan to take him back to Paris to meet up with those he done in, but on their trip there they stop off at a Madrid apartment that includes an unplanned kidnapping of a young Spanish girl, Maggie. Through the trip Parker's pondering manner starts getting on the pairs' nerves and the feisty Maggie makes matters even worse. Nothing is truly going to plan with these constant distractions and the Spanish police are hot on their trail.

I wasn't expecting to like "The Hit" as much as I did. But came away really enjoying and thinking highly of this oddity, after knowing nothing about it to begin with. It was neat blind purchase (well, it only cost $2), which really did pay off. This colourfully kooky British crime feature has a premise that likes play mind games by breezily building upon the animated characters and random situations they find themselves stuck in. It's about them finding their feet and coming to terms that death might be around the corner. Nothing to fear in something you shouldn't be afraid off. Peter Prince's tautly fleshed out script has real sensitivity about it and goes down well with the simple road trip storyline. While rather talkative, the dialogue driven outing has a lyrically deeper underbelly, where personalities clash with amusingly engaging and wittily sly results. Action is little, but it doesn't suffer from it and when it unfold, its intensely drawn up. Director Stephen Frears paints a poetically subdued feel to it with such freshly assured and suave direction. He truly sets up some beautiful visions without losing any of that brutal edge when called for (the surprising climax takes the cake). Mick Molloy's fetchingly sublime photography-work incorporates the alluringly picturesque backdrop of Spain with elegant scope. He even frames diverse scenes with inspired shots that have you in awe. Eric Clapton plugs away for the sweepingly airy opening title and Paco de Lucia stirringly upbeat Spanish flavour to the music score kicks up the energy levels and unpredictable vibe. The technical side of the production is pretty top-draw and sufficiently done. The performances are all marvellous in crafting out their characters and feeding off each other with believable chemistry. An outstandingly novel John Hurt plays the professionally cool, tough as nails hit-man Braddock with such cold venom. Character actor Tim Roth (in his film debut) is brilliant in a total opposite persona as a young clueless, hot-wired rookie Myron getting a little too attached to their captivates. Terence Stamp stands-out in his turn of the lively accepting Willie Parker, who throws up some words of wisdom along the way and strangely becomes fixated with his closing destiny. Laura del Sol dashingly fine as the strong willed Maggie who adds the sparks. Also showing up in short, but potent roles is Aussie actor Bill Hunter and Fernando Rey playing an officer closing on their tails.

"The Hit" is a focused, well thought-out production that I believe to be perfect across the board. Some people might find it to lead nowhere, but seductively enterprising is what comes to my mind.