The Film: The Big Hit (1998)

The Principals: Director: Che-Kirk Wong, Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr., China Chow, Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould, Sab Shimono, Robin Dunne, Lela Rochon, Danny Smith, Joshua Peace, David Usher.

The Premise: Melvin (Wahlberg) is a a young hitman who’s way too mild-mannered and whipped for his own good.  While he’s excellent at getting people dead, he can’t get his personal life together as both his fiance, Pam (Applegate) and his bitchy mistress, Chantel (Rochon), constantly make demands of him, especially money.  And on the job, he’s got the heaviest workload because his colleagues, Crunch (Woodbine), Vince (Sabato) and the duplicitous backstabber, Cisco (Phillips), are more than content to let him do all the work while they slack on the job.  When Cisco hatches a side gig to kidnap Keiko (Chow), the daughter of a wealthy Japanese businessman named Nishi (Shimono), it goes bad because he didn’t realize that she is the goddaughter of their intimidating boss, Paris (Brooks).  So in order to save his own ass, Cisco has to frame Melvin as the ringleader and go after him with all of Paris’ men.  This leaves Melvin having to entertain Chantel’s parents (Gould, Kazan), keep Keiko under wraps and fight off an army of killers, including Cisco.

Is It Good: It’s a guilty pleasure of mine.  The Big Hit been described as Tarantino-esque back in a time when half the action films of the era were trying to be that.  It’s got a loud, dumb script, populated by caricatures and more explosions than substance, but with a few amusing lines.  It’s also got laughable video game-style action and inane plot set ups.  But after not having seen it for over a decade, I’d forgotten how much good, stupid fun it is.  The leap in acting level that Mark Wahlberg has undergone in the last 13 years is night and day, but back in this movie, he still had the diamond-in-the-rough quality that he honed very well.  He could pull the physical stuff off great with his Calvin Klein abs, but he also added the mousy milksop domesticated version of Melvin in well too.

But this movie belongs to Lou Diamond Phillips.  Man, what was he on to come up with this character?  He’s a gas as the slimy, scheming Cisco, gold tooth and all.  Was he sporting a mariachi outfit in this thing?  He looked like the mirror universe Richie Valens.  And damnit, where the hell has Avery Brooks been?  Benjamin Sisko was long gone here and the Man Called Hawke was definitely back in the house.  Christina Applegate was at the peak of her hotness in this movie, sporting her best (or worst?) Jewish princess accent.  Lainie Kazan and Elliott Gould are dime-a-dozen New York Jewish parents, but not un-amusing.  China Chow was a fresh-faced enigma as Keiko, the attractive but disaffected school girl with daddy issues.  Lela Rochon was bucking for Bitch of the Year and Bokeem Woodbine had a few notable moments as a guy who has hand.

Director Che-Kirk Wong brought some of his Hong Kong mentality to the action scenes, although he specialized in stereotypes with his characters.  His side gags like the video store clerk are more grating than funny, but I couldn’t help but get a small laugh out of Robin Dunne’s wigger character, Gump (trace buster buster).  It’s been seen a thousand times, as has many of the characters in the movie, but in some cases they were fun.

Is It Worth A Look: It’s a low-rent Grosse Point Blank , but it’s not without its charms.

Random Anecdotes: Mark Wahlberg and China Chow ended up dating after shooting this movie together.

Cinematic Soulmates: Grosse Pointe Blank, The Transporter