The Big Hit

Among the assorted species of movie geeks (horror buffs, film-noir aficionados), there has always been a special breed of disreputable sensationalist who thrives on the most spectacularly tawdry cult-video trash he can find. For this particular brand of drooler, your average, slightly sleazy B movie simply won’t do. No, what he thirsts for (and I do mean he — these kinky-outrage junkies are almost always overgrown adolescent men) is, in a word, the extreme: cannibal cheerleader musicals, Hong Kong pulp that turns carnage into deranged slapstick, the ”masterpieces” of Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Dario Argento.

Inevitably, yesterday’s underground shocks become today’s mainstream jollies, and in the age of South Park, Jerry Springer, and the TV networkization of Howard Stern, it’s no surprise to encounter a movie like The Big Hit (TriStar), a sick-joke kidnap thriller that isn’t so much over-the-top as it is under the bottom. The picture opens with Mark Wahlberg, as sensitive hitman Melvin Smiley, disposing of a garbage bag full of dripping limbs, and the fun just escalates from there. Bullets slam bodies halfway across rooms. A pumped-up stud (Bokeem Woodbine) becomes a happy masturbation addict, never seen without his plastic hand exerciser. A pouty Catholic-schoolgirl kidnap victim (China Chow) puts the moves on Melvin as he tries to cook up a nice kosher meal to please his Jewish-sexpot-princess girlfriend, played by Christina Applegate imitating Fran Drescher. (In the closest thing here to a love scene, the film attempts to do for a squishy raw chicken what Ghost did for pottery.) A climactic chase features a runaway car that flips over like a gymnast just inches behind the hero.

Insanely hyperbolic and crass, full of borderline racist jokes and ”heroes” who are casual sociopaths, The Big Hit takes the violently campy, we-know-this-is-what-you-crave subtext of movies like Con Air and puts it right on the surface. It’s like a hyped-up Bruce or Arnold thriller directed by the Coen brothers for Troma Films. The best thing that can be said of the performers is that they never quite let you know they’re in on the joke. Wahlberg does his puppy-macho ”sincere” number (that is, when he’s not shooting bodies to shreds), and Lou Diamond Phillips struts and preens like the winner of the You Don’t Have to Be Black to Be a Homeboy sweepstakes. No one in his right mind would call The Big Hit a good movie, but I’d be lying if I said I was bored. (At Con Air, I was bored.) In its brazenly decadent, throwaway manner, it may be some sort of junk landmark: the first studio thriller that’s all guilty pleasure. B-

The Big Hit
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