In 1998 a pair of trash movie classics were released a couple of months apart: Wild Things, which Roger Ebert described as "trash that glows in the dark" (a compliment); and The Big Hit, which he panned and sneered at those who tried to point out that it's a comedy, "If it was a comedy, I think I would've laughed." Real tactful there, Rog.Well, Ebert has gone to the Great Balcony Down Below and I'm here to correct the record: The Big Hit is an absolute gem of comedic-action filmmaking.
Marky Mark stars as Melvin Smiley, an ace assassin able to take out an entire hotel suite of armed guards while the rest of his crew hangs back letting him do all the work and then steal the credit and bonuses for his kill. Not only that, his mistress is harping at him about not paying her bills (while she's cheating on him as well) and his fiance has invited her anti-goyim Jewish mother and bad drunk father over for a visit as a prelude to dumping him. No wonder he's guzzling Mylanta like water.
When fellow gang member Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips totally off the chain) offers Melvin a part in a side kidnapping he's pulling, Melvin reluctantly agrees. The target is a daughter (an adorable, sassy China Chow, who hasn't worked nearly enough since) of a rich Japanese industrialist. Unfortunately, her father is utterly bankrupt after making a movie with a title too amusing to share here and the girl is the goddaughter of the crime boss (Avery Brooks) they all work for and he's none to happy that an unauthorized kidnapping has been pulled on his turf, so he assigns Cisco to hunt down the perpetrators. I'll give you one guess as to whom Cisco plans to frame for the job and that same guess covers who is babysitting the hostage while trying to hide her from his houseguests.
When I saw it in theaters, the scene that alerted me that this was something special is this ransom note debacle:
There is so much gold in this scene as Chow asserts herself as not easily impressed even with a gun in her face, mocking her abductors.You can also glimpse Marky's meek persona which, coming a year after Boogie Nights and not many more from his Funky Bunch wigga days, did a lot to shed a different light on his range. (It's hard to believe Mr. "Good Vibrations" is a two-time Oscar nominee, huh?)
The movie is fast-paced front to back and pitched at such a high energy level that it really illustrates how few flicks get the comedy-action balance right. I don't know why director Kirk Wong never did anything after this, but he went out with a bang. F-bombs are dropped like they're taking out Dresden and there are subplots about how Bokeem Woodbine has stopped having sex with girls in favor of "Straight jackin'!" and a long-overdue video rental and the crazy kid calling Melvin demanding its return. How can a movie with "Tracebuster-buster-busters" be anything but awesome? It can't!
Score: 9/10. Buy it.
Unfortunately, the Wyclef Jean track with the "Staying Alive" sample does NOT appear in the movie. That made me mad back then because it was so cool in the trailer.