The Hit (1984)
If you happen to be looking for a film with some gangland flavor to it featuring recognizable faces then stop looking as this tightly knit gem from director Stephen Frears is just what you need.
At the time of The Hit’s release, it starred two wily veterans and a new kid on the block who has himself turned into a wily veteran and thanks in part to his association with Mr. Tarantino is easily identifiable. The Hit opens with a group of undercover officers whisking Terence Stamp off to a British court room where he blows the whistle on many of his underworld pals. The group of accused break out in song letting Stamp know that someday “we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know how.”
Time to move on ahead ten years where Stamp is living in seclusion in what appears to be a small village in the Spanish countryside. Wasting little time. the script finds him abducted by four young men looking to make a fast dollar. They speed him out to the proper meeting ground in a barren area and hand him over to a sedate looking John Hurt and a hyper Tim Roth. A brief case is exchanged and Hurt begins to drive off with Stamp as his prize. Behind him the car carrying the four men and their prized briefcase promptly explodes setting the tone that Hurt leaves little to chance.
The plan is to bring Stamp back to London where he will face certain death from his revenge seeking cronies of the past. Things will not be so smooth when Stamp translates a radio broadcast in the car that a police officer was killed by the four hoods Hurt had hired and one has survived to finger the car and Stamp as the mark. Hurt is forced to change his traveling plans leading them to a supposed safe house where once again the calm demeanor of Hurt will be put to the test when he has to decide what to do with an aging gangland member and a young well kept woman played by Laura Del Sol.
The film essentially turns into a road movie that will test the wills of all three men and the beautiful Del Sol who is taken along on the journey as well. Hurt plays the killer with a calm demeanor that rarely allows any emotion to seep through his exterior but one senses that he has come to admire the equally cool Stamp who isn’t crying or begging for his life but seems at peace with his supposedly imminent demise.
“It’s just a moment. We’re here. Then we’re not here. We’re somewhere else… maybe. And it’s as natural as breathing. Why should we be scared? ”
Roth on the other hand is the green kid on his first hit. He’s full of enthusiasm but one can easily see that he isn’t to Hurt’s liking as the film journeys on. He’s getting too close to the beautiful woman in the back seat and there’s even a hint of looking to Stamp as a father figure by the time the fateful road trek must come to a close.
I’m not going to spoil anything here by way of divulging any details from the final reel. This is a highly engaging gangster oriented film that delivers a top notch performance by Stamp who is equally matched by Hurt. Roth was just beginning here and like his character is a bit green around Hurt and Stamp but then maybe I’m not being fair as that’s just what his character is. Trying to look good and impress the elderly hitman but more often then not, just looking like a rookie.
This was director Frears’ first theatrical release in 13 years. His last being Gumshoe in ’71. As sedate as this film can be at times, the violence comes hard and sudden which for me always adds to the overall impact of the plot device. A common mistake in many horror films is just the opposite. In your face and mind numbing.
Fans of Eric Clapton will notice his name in the opening credits as a contributor to the opening title music track. You’ll also recognize Spanish actor Fernando Rey as an intrepid policeman who is seemingly one step behind the car carrying our foursome. It’s a characterization that is well done. Mainly due to the fact that Frears never really gives him any lines. He’s always in the group giving orders that we don’t really here. We’re just piecing the crimes together right along with him. Actors who demand screen time or as many lines as possible wouldn’t dare take a role like this.
Enough about the film, check it out and enjoy the work of Stamp and Hurt. This was my second viewing and I really shouldn’t have waited twenty years. Don’t make the same mistake.