[Screen It]


(1998) (Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Philips) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Moderate Extreme *Moderate Extreme
Mild None Moderate *None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Moderate Mild Minor Mild Extreme

Action/Adventure: A group of hitmen makes the mistake of unknowingly kidnaping their boss' godchild.
Several hitmen, including Mel Smiley (MARK WAHLBERG), Cisco (LOU DIAMOND PHILIPS), Crunch (BOKEEM WOODBINE), Vince (ANTONIO SABATO, JR.) and Gump (ROBIN DUNNE) are the best at what they do. Working for their boss, Paris (AVERY BOOKS), they bump off their prescribed targets with a mixture of bravado, humor, and efficiency, and then go home to their "normal" suburban lives.

Although Mel is good at what he does, he has several problems. For one, he's afraid that people may not like him and guzzles down antacids to relieve his upset stomach. His bigger dilemma, however, revolves around the women in his life. His mistress, Chantel (LELA ROCHON), continually takes most of his earnings, while his fiancÚ, Pam Shulman (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE), has recently sent the rest to her parents, Jeanne (LAINIE KAZAN) and Morton (ELLIOT GOULD), who are traveling to meet their new benefactor.

It couldn't come at a worse time, however, as Mel and his associates have recently done a little moonlighting and kidnaped Keiko (CHINA CHOW), the college-aged daughter of a rich industrialist. The problem arises from the fact that the young woman is Paris' godchild. Enraged at this "indiscretion," he directs Cisco to find her and kill whoever's responsible. As Mel's future in-laws arrive while he's holding Keiko hostage in his house, he also learns that Cisco and his men are on their way. From that point on, Mel must try to balance his professional and domestic responsibilities and keep himself alive long enough to do so.

With the bevy of young stars in this hip action thriller, it's probably a good bet that many teens will want to see it. Preteens, however, will most likely have little or no interest it.
For violence, pervasive language and some sexuality.
Considering their murderous profession and rampant profanity, the main characters aren't good role models, particularly since the film takes a comedic route in telling their story.


OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
As the recent trailers and TV ads so proudly exclaim -- amidst the gunplay, irreverent attitudes, and MTV inspired atmosphere -- the "same team" that made "Broken Arrow" and "Face/Off" have brought us the "The Big Hit." While movies always try to lure in moviegoers by playing off the success of previous films, these ads will make most audiences believe that the same director, the legendary Hong Kong, turned Hollywood auteur, John Woo, helmed all three films. While he is one of the film's executive producers, this release, much like Woo's last produced feature, "The Replacement Killers," suffers from him not also wearing the director's cap. Call this one, "John Woo Lite."

To be fair, "The Big Hit" and "The Replacement Killers" are rather different, although they share many similarities. Both are about professional assassins, and both are helmed by directors who have a very visual style about them. Yet where "Replacement Killers" yielded few laughs, "The Big Hit" tries so hard to be funny -- and occasionally is -- that it may surprise moviegoers expecting a more straightforward action film.

Sure, the big action set pieces are there, as are the massive amounts of gunfire that are all choreographed for maximum impact. Even so, the film goes straight for the goofy comedy during, and then immediately after, the obligatory action-filled opening. As Mark Wahlberg is blasting away at the other bad guys, one of his companions offers another some non-dairy creamer for his coffee in the hallway just outside the melee. After they're done, everyone goes home and we follow Wahlberg to his lovely suburban home that looks so much like the other suburban homes that even he can't remember which driveway is his.

While this may sound like one of those spoof movies in the line of the "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" films, it never quite goes far enough to be associated with them. Yet it's so goofy at times that you don't know whether to laugh at its absurd nature or think that it's simply quite stupid. For every bit involving a geeky video store clerk unknowingly threatening a hitman (Mel) if he doesn't return a video, and the few jokes on suburban life (we see a parade of white men in white shorts and flowered shirts mowing their tiny yards with their electric mowers, all in unison), there are many bad exchanges of dialogue (such as one normally finds in the typical Jackie Chan flick).

The film certainly isn't as well made or genuinely funny as that other hitman with a conscience comedy from last year, "Grosse Pointe Blank." Part of the problem lies with the main character. As played by Mark Wahlberg -- the former white bread rapper and now big star thanks to his work in "Boogie Nights" -- Mel is a complete split personality case. At work he has no qualms about killing people, jumping out of windows, and during these moments and in his training we see that he's quite the physical specimen. Still, when he's home living in his comfortable suburban spread, he's insecure (guzzling down the antacids), has money problems, and seems like such a nice guy. He even goes so far as attempting to cook his future in-laws a Kosher Jewish meal, and after blowing away Keiko's marginal boyfriend for harassing her, he politely apologizes and says, "He was rude."

In a straight out spoof, all of that would be quite funny. Yet, since the film never pushes the envelope far enough in that direction, the results are too incongruous to be taken either seriously or humorously enough to be as much fun as they should be. Cusack's anguished hitman in "Grosse Pointe Blank" seemed genuine -- he was good at what he did, but had a biting sarcasm about him that made him seem real. Mel, on the other hand, seems just like a cleverly written invention made up by screenwriter Ben Ramsey (making his big screen debut). While he's likeable as a domestic homemaker and thrilling as an expert assassin, the two never meld into one person.

Lou Diamond Philips ("Courage Under Fire," "La Bamba"), on the other hand, has no such problems as his character is a simple hoodlum. Although he gets too deranged at the end for his -- and the film's -- own good, Philips purposefully chews up the scenery with the best of them. Beyond those two, the rest of the characters aren't developed or differentiated enough to really tell them apart or care anything about them, although newcomer China Chow (Keiko) is moderately appealing in a feisty sort of way.

Lainie Kazan ("My Favorite Year") and Elliot Guild ("M*A*S*H" the movie) show up as Mel's future in-laws, an irritatingly stereotypical Jewish set of parents, present only as a plot complication. Little of their material is very funny and mainly focuses on Gould's repetitive attempts to drink some liquor, an act his wife and daughter vehemently stop. While there seems to be hints at some great comedic potential building once he does start drinking, the humor is relegated to him barfing on Philips during an under-the-table, gun-pointing showdown.

The film does work best at its moments of physical comedy and particularly its instances of misdirection. Just like the classic vaudevillian productions up through TV shows like "I Love Lucy," the moments where Mel must hide and/or redirect people from discovering that a) he has a chopped up body in some garbage bags outside, that the neighbor's dog is after and b) that he has a bound hostage in the house who tries to hop away while "a" is simultaneously occurring, are quite funny in a morbid way.

Hong Kong director Che-Kirk Wong, making his American debut, certainly has an eye for such scenes, as well as staging some spectacular stunts and gun battles (including one where Wahlberg spins on the floor like a break dancer, shooting people while spinning in circles, and another where he rolls down the handrails of a staircase like a straight pin). This film, however, is so uneven in its approach that it never fully sustains any plot driven motivation and the fact that it's so goofy -- but not quite goofy enough -- undermines the action scenes.

As in many films of this genre and caliber, it gets downright bad at the end with people presumably being killed but then showing up again for some more fighting (with a visual explanation about how they survived that we, of course, get to see), Wahlberg driving his car backwards while shooting a machine gun out through the absent windshield, and a car knocking down trees in a forest like they were matchsticks. Disappointedly, these last moments and the grand finale -- where we have the stereotypical mano a mano fistfight scene between the "good guy" and the villain -- are nowhere as thrilling as the opening sequence. It's as if the production simply ran out of gas or any last bits of I.Q. before they could get those end credits rolling.

While this film will probably please adolescent and college-aged males, its lack of cohesion and its comically callous look at killing people will most likely prevent it from attracting mainstream audiences. Although it features some funny moments and some decent action sequences, it's nowhere as good as the similarly constructed "Grosse Pointe Blank." Had the filmmakers pushed the film further into becoming a straight out spoof, or toned down the material and used it just to complement the action mayhem, it might have been much better. As it stands, "The Big Hit" has its moments, but collectively doesn't even approach what its title suggests. We give it a 4 out of 10.

Although this film takes a comical, near spoof-like approach toward hitmen and killing people (of which parents should be immediately concerned), the film is quite violent (many, many people being shot, blown up, etc...), but surprisingly not as bloody as one would expect (although still gory in places). Profanity is extreme with more than 70 "f" words, other cursing, and many colorful phrases. Obviously everyone has bad attitudes, a few sexual references are made, and we see a few male bare butts. Since many teens might just want to see this film (considering its cast), you should definitely look through the material to determine whether it's appropriate for them or for anyone else in your home.

  • Morton repeatedly says that he needs a drink, and Mel pours him a shot of liquor, but Pam and her mom stop him. Later, we repeatedly see him sneak some liquor into his prune juice and drink some from the bottle. Finally, he appears to be drunk and eventually throws up.
  • Mel takes a bag from Vince that contains the chopped up body of some man and blood drips from a hole in the bag. Later, when Mel dumps the parts into his bathtub, we see a few of them from a distance, and then briefly see him holding this man's lower leg and see blood on his bathroom floor.
  • Some people who are shot have small bloody bullet holes in them, and the water in a hot tub (where a victim fell) is tinted red from blood.
  • Blood splatters onto a window after Mel shoots and kills someone.
  • A man who's been stabbed is a little bloody as is another person.
  • We see Morton throw up several times.
  • Obviously all of the killers have extreme cases of both, and some viewers may see the film as having both for portraying such behavior in a comical fashion.
  • Some bad guy that Mel and his crew are about to hit has been brought some young women (for him to "play with"), but nothing happens as mayhem quickly ensues. Vince later sees a woman here and says, "You're so fine. I want to pour milk on you and make you part of my complete breakfast."
  • Mel, although a likeable guy on the domestic front, cheats on his fiancÚ with Chantel, his mistress.
  • Some guy that Keiko knows tries to take advantage of her sexually in the backseat of a limo. He kisses her and runs his hands all over her body, and when she says no, he says, "No means yes. You know you want it." He then comments on not getting "any suckee" (presumably referring to oral sex).
  • Some may see the many scenes listed under "Violence" as tense, but, for the most part they are played more for action and laughs than suspense.
  • Some guy that Keiko knows tries to take advantage of her sexually in the backseat of a limo. He kisses her and runs his hands all over her body, and when she says no, he says, "No means yes. You know you want it." He then comments on not getting "any suckee" (presumably referring to oral sex) while she tries to fight him off her (Mel shoots him instead).
  • Some guys show up Mel's prepared to kill him, and both parties aim guns at each other under the table while Pam's family is there for dinner. While it's a tiny bit tense, it's done more in a comical fashion.
  • The entire ending sequence (where Mel runs from a car through the woods and finally has a big fight with the villain, etc...) may be tense to some viewers, but it's done very much in an action- oriented way (ie. Not extremely suspenseful).
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Shotguns/Knives/Hand grenades/Other explosives: Used to threaten, wound, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Mel has a massive arsenal hidden in his garage.
  • Phrases: "Lame ass," "Hard on" (nonsexual), "Bitch" (said many times about women, men, and used as an adjective), "Pissed," "Loser," "Jerk off" (nonsexual), "Idiot," "Schmuck," "Bastard," "Shut up," "Punk ass," "Whipped," "Scumbag," "Nigger" (said by a black person), and "Ain't that a bitch."
  • These guys, and the film, making killing look like fun.
  • Cisco and other non-African Americans, talk like stereotypical "boys from the hood" (using slang and particularly the word "m*therf*cker").
  • Mel rolls down the handrails of a staircase like a straight pin while people shoot at him, and later jumps through a window attached to a bungee chord.
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of action-oriented, tense music.
  • None that we heard, but there are several rap songs with lyrics we couldn't understand, so some material may be present.
  • At least 77 "f" words (27 used with "mother" and 1 used sexually), 50 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals (the "d" word), 13 asses (1 using "hole"), 4 hells, 4 damns, 3 S.O.B.'s (1 in subtitles), and 6 uses of "Oh my God," 4 of "G-damn," and 1 use of "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Chantel occasionally shows some cleavage in the outfits she wears. We also see her a few times in bed with another man, but don't see any activity or nudity.
  • Mel grabs Chantel's clothed butt as they kiss.
  • There are repeated jokes made about Crunch and his newfound love of masturbating. Although we never see him in the act, he's often exercising his grip and in one scene buys lotion for such activities. Additionally, the guys tease him about this, saying, "You're telling me you never jerked your d*ck until last week...?" Crunch then replies, "I've been f*cking since I was ten..." Later, we see him look at his hand, smile, look at the porno videotape box in his other hand and then walk off into the other room.
  • We briefly see the bare butts of Crunch, Cisco, and Vince in a locker room as they change clothes.
  • Pam, wearing a tightfitting outfit (we also see some of her cleavage), asks Mel, "Do you think my ass is still perky? Give it a squeeze." He then grabs and holds onto her clothed butt. She then asks him, "Is this turning you on?" He replies, "Yeah, like a light switch."
  • Some guy that Keiko knows tries to take advantage of her sexually in the backseat of a limo. He kisses her and runs his hands all over her body and we briefly see her underwear as he pulls up her short skirt.
  • Jeanne tells Pam, "Look at your father other there (sprawled out on the furniture). He's a real sex machine."
  • Although not exactly sexual in nature, there is a somewhat steamy scene where Keiko tells Mel that she has to pee. Since she's handcuffed, he carries her to the bathroom (we see just a brief glimpse of the bottom of her butt) and she asks him to pull down her underwear (he does, but we don't see anything -- she still has her short skirt on) and we then see her sitting on the toilet (and he then pulls her underwear back up).
  • Mel and Keiko sensuously cook together and he then wipes some spilled sauce from the inside of her thigh. As she lies back on the counter and he moves in closer to her, the mood immediately stops as she whacks him over the head with a wooden mallet.
  • Both Cisco and Paris smoke a few times, while Vince smokes once.
  • Pam must put up with her stereotypically Jewish parents, especially her mother who doesn't want her daughter marrying a Catholic. When asked what their relationship has done to his parents, Mel replies that they're both dead.
  • Keiko says, "My father doesn't even know I'm alive until he has to impress his business associates."
  • The humorous and flippant approach this film takes toward assassins and killing people.
  • Mel and his crew go on a hit that results in a prolonged scene with massive amounts of gunfire and many, many people being shot and killed. Additionally, some grenades are thrown that kill people, and Mel then hunts down more bad guys and shoots them dead. Finally, he sets off a massive explosion that kills anyone left and blows out the windows on the floor of a building.
  • Cisco makes the comment that Mel has murdered a hundred or so people in the past few years.
  • Cisco shoots a limo driver in the chest, killing him.
  • Mel shoots and kills a guy who was trying to take advantage of Keiko.
  • Keiko's father prepares to commit hara-kiri with a large knife, but is interrupted from doing so.
  • Mel accidentally hits Keiko on the head with a truck's tailgate, knocking her out.
  • Cisco hits a guy in the gut twice and then throws him to the ground while interrogating him. Eventually he stabs the guy in the gut, killing him.
  • Keiko hits Mel on the head with a wooden mallet.
  • Mel shoots two men dead with a shotgun and then exchanges gunfire with another man. Other bad guys then show up and shoot massive amounts of bullets at Mel.
  • A limo and a van careen down a hill and crash at the bottom. Mel then throws a hand grenade that hits the van and causes it to explode.
  • Cisco punches a man and throws him out onto the street.
  • Cisco rams Mel's car.
  • Mel throws hand grenades at his pursuer who's chasing him in a car.
  • Two men get into a fight where they punch and kick each other. One of the men is then presumably crushed by a car that falls on him (and it and another car then explode).
  • Two men get into another prolonged fight, where one tries to stab the other with very large knives. In addition, they throw more punches and kicks until one finally stabs the other with a knife. Finally, a large explosion destroys the building in which they were fighting.

  • Reviewed April 21, 1998

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