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Mobsters on the Road to a 'Hit'

April 01, 1993|DOUG LIST

Just before British director Stephen Frears earned a spot on the A-list of filmmakers with a string of such films as "My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dangerous Liaisons" and "The Grifters," he made "The Hit," an equally original movie that was all but ignored by critics and the public.

Frears and screenwriter Peter Prince have combined a standard mob-vengeance plot with the offbeat world of road movies and then added a heavy dose of Sergio Leone's existential Westerns.

"The Hit" begins typically enough with an English mob hit man named Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) testifying against his fellow mobsters. They, of course, vow revenge.

Ten years later, Parker is in hiding, living comfortably in rural Spain, when a group of young thugs kidnap him and turn him over to a pair of fellow mob hit men (John Hurt and Tim Roth) assigned to bring him to the crime syndicate's top boss.

But nothing goes right for the kidnapers, much to Parker's amusement. Though he's on the road to his death, he seems to be having a great time. Or is it just an act to put the mobsters off guard while he plots his escape?

Also mucking up their plans is a young Spanish woman (Laura Del Sol) who joins the mob trio on its journey. But unlike Parker, she fights like a dog to avoid getting killed.

Low-keyed performances by veteran British actors Stamp and Hurt add to the doomed feeling of the film. In fact, Hurt speaks so little that it's a jolt when he does. Balancing their minimal acting is a wonderfully crazed performance by Roth, who has since gone on to star in the cult hits "Vincent and Theo" and "Reservoir Dogs."

"The Hit" manages to be a witty, tense action film while exploring that thin line between life and death, where hearing a man's name, losing a shoe or getting on the wrong person's nerves could determine one's fate.

"The Hit" (1984) , directed by Stephen Frears. 98 minutes. Rated R.

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