The Big Hit
1998, R, 94 min. Directed by Che-Kirk Wong. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Lela Rochon, China Chow, Elliot Gould, Antonio Sabata Jr.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 1, 1998
More aptly titled The Big Miss, this grade-Z action parody looks like a second-rate John Woo cast-off (Woo and longtime partner Terence Chang produced it, alongside a slumming Wesley Snipes) and feels like something out of Lloyd Kaufman's Big Bag o' Troma Rejects. Wahlberg makes a stunningly bad career move as Melvin Smiley, a Long Island hit man who just wants to be loved, so much so that he can't seem to break up with either his uncomically Jewish fiancée Pam (Applegate) or his mistress Chantel (Rochon). Things come to a head when, desperate for cash in order to keep Chantel happy, he takes a moonlighting gig with his buddies and ends up kidnapping Keiko (Chow), the goddaughter of head honcho Paris (Brooks, of Deep Space Nine). From here on out, it's one long, long, long chase to avoid slaughter by his old henchman Cisco (Phillips), who's turned tail and is out to save his own skin by flaying Melvin's. Confused yet? Ah, but this is just the first 20 minutes, grasshopper. Incidental comedy comes and goes in The Big Hit like artillery at a Triad block party, but very little of it connects. Thankfully, director Wong has a firm grasp on the action, and plenty of skillfully over-the-top shoot-outs litter the film like spent shell casings, but all action and an incomprehensible plot make for one strange hybrid. This almost feels like one of Sammo Hung's early comedy misfires, although it enjoys a bigger budget and the added bonus of Elliott Gould as a Passover lush. Mark Walhberg's adenoidal monotone works to good effect in The Big Hit's first 30 minutes or so, but a running gag involving a late video store rental and his character's wanton inanities quickly make one wish for surcease from this emerging master of unfunny comedy. Phillips, Woodbine, Brooks, and all the rest of Wahlberg's crew turn their acting up to “11” and then rip the knobs off. Never have I seen so much ham in a film with so many overtly Jewish characters, nor would I care to again. Christina Applegate, so good in Gregg Araki's Nowhere, reverts here to her Married With Children mode, while, in the background, Lela Rochon seems to screech every other line, drawing out her consonants in ways that'd make Urkel proud. A genuinely freakish melange of bad acting, godawful production design, and one of the most convoluted plots of the Nineties, The Big Hit is for masochists only, and hardcore ones at that.