The Big Hit
is a 1998 action comedy, directed by Kirk Wong. The director was previously known for such films as (among others) Health Warning
(1982) and Crime Story
(1993). The main stars were Mark Wahlberg
, Lou Diamond Phillips, and China Chow, with key roles played by Lela Rochon, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks and Sab Shimono.
It is the story of a Hitman with a Heart
. Only that heart is causing him much trouble.
Melvin "Mel" Smiley (Wahlberg) is a mild-mannered man and a ruthlessly efficient Professional Killer
, but his good nature allows his co-workers to take advantage of him. They alternatively ask him of favors, like disposing corpses for them, or claim credit and bonuses for his hits. He still earns good money from his job, but Mel is actually spending most of it in maintaining two seperate residences and live-in partners. The first is Chantel (Rochon), his African-American girlfriend, who is fully aware of his line of work and keeps making financial demands on him. The other is Pam Shulman (Applegate), his Jewish-American fiancée, who is unaware of what he does for living, but still wants him to support both herself and her formerly well-to-do family.
Cisco (Phillips), fellow assassin and supposed friend
, on the other hand, is not pleased with earning a few thousand dollars with every hit. He therefore orchestrates a plan to earn himself at least a million from one simple job: abducting college student Keiko Nishi (Chow), the only daughter of wealthy businessman Jiro Nishi (Shimono), for ransom. In desperate need for some cash, Melvin reluctantly joins Cisco in this plan. What they don't know is that Jiro invested much of his fortune in creating a big budget film and promoting it, but the film bombed at the box office, Jiro has just gone bankrupt and is contemplating Seppuku
. Even worse, Keiko happens to be the favorite goddaughter of Paris (Brooks) who just happens to be the local Don
and the current employer of Melvin and Cisco.
What develops is their attempts to both find the kidnappers (which they can't do), keep people from finding out they're the kidnappers, trying to get the ransom, and keep their lives intact. Throw in some Stockholm Syndrome
, a dash of backstabbing, and a number of reveals as Mel's life starts to fall apart, and you've pretty much got the idea.
This film provides examples of:
- The All Solving Hammer: When Melvin apologizes to Mort about their family visit going to hell, Mort lazily says he'll take the family to temple tomorrow and that should help.
- Asshole Victim: The first guy we actually see Melvin kill is involved in a White Slavery ring. The second is a would-be rapist. He later explains to Keiko that most of his victims were "bad people". The rest were just obnoxious.
- Asian Hooker Stereotype: Keiko's initial boyfriend is Caucasian. While attempting to rape her, the jerk quotes two phrases from Full Metal Jacket: "Me sucky-sucky" and "Me love you long time". By implication calling his "girlfriend" an Asian whore.
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Avery Brooks steals the show as Paris, the terrifying head of the crime syndicate
- Bankruptcy Barrel: Conspicuously averted. Nishi is so broke, he can't afford the car to pick up Keiko from school. Yet later, we see his house is still lined with oriental rugs, he has a fancy ceremonial dagger, and he not only has a working phone, but a bunch of his own high-end tracing / counter-tracing electronic devices.
- Boring but Practical: After Cisco has had enough trying to get Keiko to read Crunch's badly written, misspelled, loftily-worded ransom script, he scribbles out a 9-word message of his own that is so effective, it gives Keiko pause to recite it. Cisco then remarks, "Perfect."
- Brick Joke: Crunch''s masturbation obsession. At various points in the movie, he's shown using two different kinds of grip-strengtheners, deciding between bottles of lotion, recommending masturbation to Melvin, going off to masturbate after getting off the phone, and at the end there's a poster of him as "Customer of the Year" in the Adult Video section of a video store.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Chantel keeps her money in one of these. When Melvin finds out, he finally realizes that she never paid those bills. And that she was using him... okay, using him more than she already obviously was.
- Catholic School Girls Rule: Keiko spends the entire film in her college uniform, which fits the typical depiction of a catholic school girl uniform.
- Code Name: During the kidnapping, the team refers to themselves as Gilligan's Island characters. Vince is Gilligan, Crunch is The Professor, Melvin is Skipper.
Keiko: I guess that makes you The Millionaire?
Cisco: (grins) Pretty soon.
- Keiko continues to refer to Melvin as "Skipper" throughout the movie, even after learning his real name.
- Cool Guns: Melvin's Weapon of Choice is a Beretta 93R, a machine pistol. Obviously for More Dakka reasons.
- Cucumber Facial: Melvin wakes up from a nightmare, with Pam in bed next to him, who leans up to show she's in curlers, mud mask, and requisite cucumber slices.
- Damsels in Distress: Three unnamed teenaged girls, abducted by the white slavery ring. While Melvin takes out most people within the room, he makes sure that these three are unharmed, effectively rescuing them.
- Date Rape Averted: Melvin's way of kidnapping Keiko is replacing the limo driver who is supposed to take Keiko and her boyfriend home. Said boyfriend uses the limo ride in an attempt to rape her. Melvin immediately ends said boyfriend's life with a bullet.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: At the beginning of the movie, Crunch claims to have only just discovered masturbation; he explains that he has been sleeping with women since he first entered puberty, and never had to resort to gratifying himself. However, he has recently discovered it, and has now decided that it's the best possible form of sex, something that comes up again and again during the film.
- The Don: Paris is African-American but otherwise plays this straight. As he puts it, even men outside of the law such as his organization have to respect their own rules, for without order there is only anarchy.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: Lampshaded. Hitman Melvin (white Mark Wahlberg) is suspected of betraying his employer (black Avery Brooks), who sends Cisco (mixed-race Lou Diamond Phillips) and two gunmen (one black, one East Asian) to confront him at his house. The four have a tense standoff sitting at Melvin's kitchen table, when his girlfriend's drunk father (Elliot Gould), walks in and remarks how happy he is to see four young men of different races sitting together in friendship, in contrast to his wife's rejection of Melvin as a future son-in-law for not being Jewish.
- Exact Words: Keiko is ordered to read a written down ransom speech to be sent to her father. The speech happens to be riddled with typos, so she makes sure to read it exactly as written and emphasizing the misspelled words.
Keiko: Father, I have been abduct. I am fine now, but I may not be for loring, if you do not pay the sun of one million doolars. These men mean businesses.
- Gold Digger: Chantel more or less sees Melvin as a wallet. Pam is a bit more subtle, but apparently not that different.
- Hitman with a Heart: Mark has no problem executing targets. But has a soft spot for women, whether he personally knows them or not. He is also slavishly devoted to his love interests and eager to please his friends. His kindness is frequently abused.
- Jerkass: The Big Top Video clerk is on a seriously obsessive power trip.
- Jewish Mother, Jews Love to Argue, Jewish American Princess, You Have to Have Jews, All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Pam and her parents.
- Large Ham: Cisco.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Melvin develops protective feelings and then a romantic attraction to Keiko, the girl he helped kidnap. Keiko eventually returns the feelings, and they ride off into the sunset together by the end.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: For the first part of the film, Cisco is an obnoxious but pretty comedic foil for Melvin. Yet when mob boss Paris compells him to hunt down Keiko's kidnappers, Cisco has little problem swithing into genuine bad guy mode when he sells out and kills his former associates in the scheme.
- Oh, Crap:
- Cisco, when Paris reveals the seriousness of the kidnapping. Luckily for him, it comes off as sympathetic outrage.
- Also by Cisco when Gummy eventually makes the second ransom call.
- A few times by Melvin when Keiko's presence risks being exposed.
- Professional Killer: Melvin, Cisco and various minor characters.
- Record Scratch: Used several times in the movie for comic effect, like when Melvin and Cisco suspend their fight to gawk at the poster of Crunch in the video store.
- Retail Therapy: Pam's mom takes her to get their hair done, in order to get over her decision to split with Melvin (at her mother's urging).
- Riches to Rags: Nishi.
- Sassy Black Woman: Chantel exemplifies the most negative qualities of the trope. She is unnecessarily mean, sarcastic, and condescendingly cynical.
- Scary Black Man: Paris when actually pissed off and holding a golf club.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The white slaver's last surviving Mook attempts this. Unfortunately he walks right into Melvin.
- Seppuku: Jiro is actually seen chanting (presumably reciting his death poem) while taking a short sword to his belly. It is the phone call of the kidnappers which interrupts the ceremony. Three times.
- Sexy Walk: The first look the viewer gets of Chantel is of her feet in high heels. Then a close up to her legs as she walks up the stairs. The first scene of Pam starts at her head. But soon focuses on her legs and feet. As she wiggles her ass towards Melvin.
- Socially-Awkward Hero: Melvin has no problem gunning down rooms of armed mooks but is driven to distraction trying to entertain his in-laws, and can't handle either of his two exploitive girlfriends. His bathroom medicine cabinet contains only rows of bottles of Maalox, which he regularly chugs.
- Stealing The Credit: Played for laughs. Melvin is a Hitman with a Heart who is one of the best assassins in the trade, at one point taking out an entire building filled with mooks while his "best friend" Cisco and the rest of his teammates wait for him to finish. Then Cisco claims credit for doing the job by putting an extra bullet in the target's head post-mortem and guilt trips Melvin into giving him the bonus for the mission, which Melvin allows simply because he's such an extreme doormat.
- Stutter Stop: Gummy has a serious Nominal Aphasia problem, even with words he has just already said multiple times. This causes him to stammer at the end of most sentences as he can't figure out the last word.
Gummy: When a motherfucker try to bust your trace with a Tracebuster, this will bust the motherfucking Tracebuster that's busting your.....
Gummy: That's my word!
- Stepford Suburbia: Both of Melvin's residences are in suburbia, with sunny lanes and pastel color schemes. However, his neighbor is a jerk and Melvin has his own skeleton in the closet. More accurately, body parts waiting to be disposed of.
- Made explicit in one iconic scene where every garage door on the block opens up, a middle-aged man comes out of each one with an identical electric lawnmower, and begins mowing the same relative crop of their yard, in near synchronization. They even flip the cord over on the return pass at the same time.
- Take That: Keiko's first reaction upon seeing her assembled kidnappers (one black, one hispanic, two white) is ask if they're "the Spice Boys"
- A Truce While We Gawk: In the final fight between Melvin and Cisco, the fight pauses abruptly as Cisco is suddenly distracted. Melvin turns to see a giant poster of Crunch, with the caption "Customer of the Year - Adult Section".
- Wall of Weapons: Melvin keeps one, as revealed at the beginning of the film. It gains in significance later on.
- With Friends Like These...: Cisco is supposedly Melvin's friend. Yet, he frequently makes fun of him, takes credit for Mel's hits and doesn't think twice about betraying him. Melvin himself seems more annoyed with his "friend" than being particularly friendly with him.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Melvin himself. At some point, Mel confronts Chantel over her betrayal. She fully expects to be killed or at least beaten. He simply tells her "You should be ashamed of yourself", then walks away. This is his harshest reaction to a woman in the entire film.
- You Can't Handle The Parody:
Melvin: The truth?
Cisco: Yeah, I want the truth.
Crunch: You can't handle the truth!
[Everyone just kind of looks at him]