Monday, June 29, 2009

Film Review: THE HIT (1984, Stephen Frears)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Terence Stamp, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Laura del Sol, Fernando Rey (VIRIDIANA, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) in basically a glorified cameo), bit part by Jim Broadbent as a Barrister, music by Eric Clapton and Paco de Lucia, producer Jeremy Thomas.
Tag-lines: "Willie Parker grassed... ten years later they came for their revenge."
Best one-liner: "She's already eaten."

THE HIT is a quintessential "existential gangster flick," and, hands down, the best work director Stephen Frears (THE QUEEN, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS) has ever done. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it moreso bears the stamp of its legendary, envelope-pushing producer Jeremy Thomas (BAD TIMING, CRASH, NAKED LUNCH, MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE) than that of Mr. Frears.

With a virtuosic flamenco guitar soundtrack by musical genius Paco de Lucia (and an opening title composed by a Ry Cooder-inspired Eric Clapton) and cool, glossy visuals (which effortlessly accentuate the astounding natural beauty of Spain) lensed by Mike Molloy (HARDCORE, SHOCK TREATMENT), the atmosphere is utterly marvelous and exceptionally immersive. It is at once a world of stark landscapes lit by the torrid Iberian sun and a world of cramped car interiors where airs of impending doom subtly clash with waves of resigned tranquility.

Basically, it all adds up to the best road movie since Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES. Or at least since Bava's KIDNAPPED.

The characters in our chamber piece include beleaguered badass John Hurt, an assassin clad in a white suit and Ray-Ban Wayfarers; 22 year-old street tough Tim Roth as an aspiring hitman who really knows how to work a shiv; gleeful smartass Terence Stamp, who possesses all the blazing, at peace confidence of the man condemned; and mysterious beauty (and Carlos Saura regular) Laura del Sol. This crew deserves every accolade they receive, and no hyperbole can really do justice to the sheer, 'in-the-moment' craft on display here.

This is decidedly a film where the less one knows about it, the better, so I shall dispense with my description soon enough, but imagine the entertainment of Siegel's THE KILLERS combined with the depth and aesthetics of Antonioni's BLOW-UP, and you have a pretty good idea of what THE HIT is all about. Five stars.

-Sean Gill

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