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HIT, THE (director: Stephen Frears; screenwriter: Peter Prince; cinematographer: Michael Molloy; editor: Mick Audsley; music: Paco de Lucía/Eric Clapton; cast: John Hurt (Braddock), Tim Roth (Myron), Terence Stamp (Willie Parker), Laura del Sol (Maggie), Bill Hunter (Harry), Lennie Peters (Mr. Corrigan), Manuel de Benito (Juan), Fernando Rey (Chief Inspector); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jeremy Thomas; Embassy Home Entertainment; 1984-UK)
“The film is not as good as the Eric Clapton music in the background.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stephen Frears (“Gumshoe”) directs this quirky psychological crime thriller. This is Frears’ return to filmmaking after spending the last thirteen years doing TV. The result is an improbable drama that is diverting and filled with much idle chatter, but not a film that makes you identify with any of its sordid characters.

Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) is a Brit gangster-turned informant at the trial of his heist gang. The Corrigan gang serenades the grass at the trial with “We’ll meet again some sunny day.”

Ten years later Willie, who was never sent to prison, spent his free time reading and meditating on the deeper meaning of life and has become a changed man. He is hunted down by a local gang in his retreat in a remote village in Spain, who snatch him and kill his police bodyguard Juan. They then turn him over to two Brit hit men–the loud apprentice Myron (Tim Roth) and his quietly pensive boss Mr. Braddock (John Hurt). They plan to cross the border by car and bring Willie back to Paris and execute him there for Mr. Corrigan, who was just released from prison.

Willie has overcome his fear of death and runs an existentialist rap to the hit men that everything is peachy — everyone must face death sooner or later. This confuses the gunmen, who think he’s gone balmy. Complications arise right from the start and Spanish policeman (Fernando Rey) is hot on their trail. Braddock changes plans and goes to a luxury Madrid apartment of a gangster pal to switch cars, but finds an Aussie named Harry (Bill Hunter) living there with a local slut named Maggie (Laura del Sol). Braddock kills Harry and takes the feisty streetwise girl along in the Mercedes, which adds to the complications.

The unfazed Willie gets under the inept hitmen’s skin in the sunny desolate countryside landscape of Spain, and it leads to a search for how each of them faces death and finds their true character. This scenario was a bit much for me, especially Stamp giving off with so many smiles and so much of a pretentious metaphysical rap. Hurt was scary as the vicious closed-off professional hood, while Roth (in his film debut) was convincing as a nasty punk trying to learn the tricks of his criminal trade in a hurry. Laura del Sol provided some sparks as a hostage trying to survive– even shitting in her pants. The result is a film about mind games that played too many games to come out ahead. Though not a failure, the film is not as good as the Eric Clapton music in the background or the flamenco music from Paco De Lucia.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”