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Film / The Big Hit

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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 Chin Chow, with key roles played by Lela Rochon, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, Elliott Gould 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.
  • All There in the Manual: In the script, Melvin had more of a backstory, to explain why he was afraid of people disliking him, and why both his parents were dead. However, due to time and budgetary restrictions, this element was cut before shooting began.
  • 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.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: As if you didn't needed any more evidence that Cisco is The Sociopath, during his dying speech at the climax he tells Melvin that he had a dream of sailing in his ship, navigate by the stars, watching the dolphins swim alongside it... maybe kill a few...
  • Bald of Authority: Paris, the terrifying head of the crime syndicate, is a bald black man.
  • 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."
    Keiko: Dad, been kidnapped. Send one million or I'm dead.
  • Bound and Gagged: Keiko is this during the first half of the film.
  • Brick Joke: Crunch decides to give up his sex life in favor of masturbation, devoting time to doing hand exercises and investing in special lotions for that purpose. This pays off near the end when Melvin and Cisco are fighting it out in the video store, and both are distracted by a huge poster of Crunch giving a cheerful thumbs-up as the #1 customer of the store's adult video section.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Melvin's collection of firepower on the wall of guns in his tool cupboard sees plenty of use come the climax.
    • The body Melvin is dismembering in his bathtub.
    • Jiro Nishi's movie display, which is mocked as being the most expensive movie poster ever made and turns out to be tough enough to withstand a bomb blast.
  • 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.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: All the violence and gunplay of your usual Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed picture, with none of the same seriousness in tone.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Played with. When Cisco arrives at Gump's pad after the phone trace, he demands that Gump tell him who is the mastermind (which is actually Cisco) and repeatedly slips in "Melvin" between words to hint to Gump who to name.
    Cisco: If you wanna stay breathing, you better tell me, Melvin,' where the fuck she is and who the fuck, Melvin, is the insidious mastermind behind this plot... Melvin.
    Gump: ...Melvin?
    Cisco (loud so Paris' mooks can hear) Melvin!? Melvin Smiley is the mastermind behind this kidnapping!?
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: When the bad guys come after him, Cisco unloads all the blame for the kidnapping on his buddies, and stabs poor Gump to death in front of the them to save his own ass.
  • Disney Death: Cisco, when one car falls onto the other with him (apparently) in-between; Melvin, when the video store blows up. In both cases, a flashback shows how they survived.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The title of Jiro Nishi's self-written, self-produced, self-financed, and self-starring film: Taste the Golden Spray
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: Melvin, Cisco, and the rest of their team kidnap Keiko to extort money from her wealthy corporate father when in fact he has just gone broke the very same day.
  • 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.
    • Keiko lampshades this with her crack "What are you guys supposed to be, the Spice Boys?"
  • Evil is Petty:
    • The copy of King Kong Lives that is central to one of the film's subplots was explicitly rented by Melvin, and Chantel doesn't gives a damn about the movie. She's the reason that Melvin hasn't returned it yet (he asked her to do it, she didn't cared to do it), and she's still taking it with her to another state, alongside all of the money she scammed out of Melvin (her new boyfriend is even puzzled about the movie being in her luggage), for no apparent reason other than to be even more of a bitch.
    • Cisco's (secret to Melvin until the halfway point of the film) mistreatment of Melvin is just because he doesn't likes the guy.
  • 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.
  • Extremely Overdue Library Book: Extremely overdue video in this instance — a copy of King Kong Lives that Melvin rented months ago and has not returned because his bitchy girlfriend Chantel didn't cared to do it when he asked. Most of the comedy of the subplot comes from the incredibly feeble nerd running the store doing threatening calls to Melvin, the veteran hitman.
  • Fanservice: Right after the prologue hit showcasing how much of a badass Melvin is (and how his friends exploit his generosity), we get a sequence of the hitmen training - so we get full views of Wahlberg, Woodbine, Diamond Phillips and Sabato Jr. in their prime.
  • Gold Digger: Chantel more or less sees Melvin as an ATM. 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.
  • In Vino Veritas: The reason Pam and her mom are so desperate to keep Mort from drinking. When he sneaks some booze anyway, he goes on a drunken tirade against them both and telling Melvin that Pam doesn't deserve to marry a Nice Guy like him, with an added benefit of distracting Cisco and his goons long enough for Melvin to blow them both away with a Sawed-Off Shotgun.
  • Jerkass:
    • The Big Top Video clerk is on a seriously obsessive power trip.
    • Chantel, who only pauses being a Sassy Black Woman when she sees Melvin is walking towards her (and her secret new boyfriend) carrying a gun.
    • Cisco has absolutely no problem being a False Friend to Melvin and starts the film by swindling Melvin out of the bonus of their latest hit.
  • Large Ham: Cisco.
    Entering the Big Top Video for the Final Battle: Time to finish what I started, MOTHERFUCKER!!
  • Last-Second Villain Recovery: After Melvin stabs his treacherous friend Cisco with his own knife, Cisco gives a heartrending monologue about just wanting to sail away on his boat, and begs Melvin to comfort him as it grows dark. Melvin leans in... and Cisco grabs and activates a time bomb on Melvin's vest as his last "fuck you."
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Pam's mother towards Pam and Melvin's engagement.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The gym montage after the initial action sequence gives us long looks at the hit team (Wahlberg, Philips, Sabato Jr. and Woodbine at their physical prime), both with and (from behind) without clothes.
  • Nerdy Bully: The Big Top Video store clerk is a wimpy-looking nerd that looks like he could crumble from Melvin just giving him a Death Glare, let alone actually attacking him, but he spends all his sub-plot's time calling Melvin's house and threatening him for not returning a very long overdue copy of King Kong Lives that Melvin rented and Chanel has never retuned, even taking it with her when she finally decides to leave with her other boyfriend to some other state. Sure enough, when Melvin arrives to finally return the video and the clerk acts like an asshole one more time, he looks like he's going to piss himself when Melvin grabs him and is about to punch him.
  • Not My Driver: Twice.
    • As part of the kidnapping plot, Melvin replaces Keiko's limo driver; he reveals himself when he shoots her asshole boyfriend who's trying to rape her.
    • Zig-zagged at the end; when the car slows down, Keiko thinks it might be Melvin, and is disappointed when she sees that it isn't. It's Vince, one of Melvin's "co-workers". And then Melvin opens the door and climbs in next to her.
  • 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 compels him to hunt down Keiko's kidnappers, Cisco has little problem switching into genuine bad guy mode when he sells out and kills his former associates in the scheme.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Melvin dodged a pretty big bullet there. Even Mort, the nicest of the bunch, completely loses any filters if he so much as sips a single drop of alcohol and cuts loose with spectacularly embarrassing (and/or insulting) diatribes.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Cisco, when Paris reveals the seriousness of the kidnapping. Luckily for him, it comes off as sympathetic outrage.
    • Also by Cisco when Gump eventually makes the second ransom call.
    • A few times by Melvin when Keiko's presence risks being exposed.
  • Phone-Trace Race: When Gump makes the second ransom call, to arrange the transfer, he is using a TraceBuster as well as a TraceBusterBuster (both Jiro Nishi's products), but Nishi is using a TraceBusterBusterBuster, which slowly defeats the TraceBusterBuster. However, it takes time to complete the trace... leading to Jiro pretending not to understand Gump in order to keep him on the line. All the while, Cisco is secretly panicking hoping that Gump will end the call before then, but is confounded by Gump's prolonged stammering.
  • Professional Killer: Melvin, Cisco and various minor characters.
  • Pun: Verging on Dad Joke territory:
    Keiko: A hitman? Does that pay well?
    Melvin: Of course - I make a killing!
  • Rage Breaking Point: Melvin is pretty well and cool with being in the middle of gunfights, being chased by people he considered friends and finding out that both girls he likes are bitches, but what truly sets him off is when the Big Top Video clerk acts like an asshole to him (thanks to Chantel never returning the copy of King Kong Lives that Melvin asked him to, a thing he's at the store to finally deal with):
    Clerk: Oooo-kaaay, what do we have here? (checks store's computer, sarcastic tone) You are several months overdue! (checks video, mockingly gasps) And you didn't rewound the tape! (facial expression obviously enjoying it) Ooooohhh, that's gonna cost ya!
    Melvin: (grabs kid by the shirt) You know, I've taken a lot of shit from you. I put up with your high prices, your lousy selection, and your rude phone calls. I just wanna tell you one thing... I will never, ever rent tapes from this store again your snotty little...!! (winds back to hit him, and that is when Cisco enters the store for the final fight).
  • 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, as a result of his Vanity Project. The epilogue shows that he was able to sell the filming rights of Keiko's kidnapping and became rich again as a result.
  • Running Gag: 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.
    Crunch: I said it should have some lan-o-lin in it. Not some god damn aloe vera bullshit, motherfucker! Get it straight!
  • 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.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Meta. Jiro Nishi returns to wealth by selling the film rights to the story of his daughter's kidnapping. This is a film about his daughter's kidnapping.
  • 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.
  • Serious Business: The video store clerk who keeps hassling Melvin over a late copy of King Kong Lives takes his job very seriously, to the point of keeping a police-style bulletin board covered with pictures of customers who don't return tapes on time. The clerk makes such a big deal out of it that Melvin is willing to play chicken with a charging muscle car just to retrieve the video.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The slow-witted teammate's nickname is Gump.
    • There are a few very prominent shots of the poster for Tromeo and Juliet that show up in the climactic fight.
    • When Cisco confronts Melvin about his emotional issues, Melvin gives in: "You wanna know the truth?" Cue Bokeem Woodbine opening the car door and shouting the line you fully expect.
      Cisco: Shaaaadaaaap.
  • A Simple Plan: Kidnap rich heiress, keep stashed for a few days on Melvin's house, get money. Everything goes wrong because, to start with, said heiress' father is bankrupt... then it goes even more wrong because Keiko is Paris' goddaughter... and then Gump is too much of a Stupid Crook... and then Melvin and Keiko become A Match Made in Stockholm...
  • 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.
  • Stupid Crooks: The entire plot hinges on a bunch of dumb hitmen working for a crime syndicate ransoming a rich girl without approval from their boss, only to find out that she's the boss's god-daughter and he wants blood. Also, even if he didn't find out, the girl's father was just going through a bankruptcy. Guys, research?
  • Stutter Stop: Gump 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.
    Gump: When a motherfucker try to bust your trace with a Tracebuster, this will bust the motherfucking Tracebuster that's busting your...
    Cisco: ...Trace?
    Gump: 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.
  • Supermodel Strut: 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.
  • 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 giving a cheerful thumbs-up, with the caption "Customer of the Year - Adult Section".
  • Unabashed B-Movie Fan: One of the major sub-plots of the film revolves around an extremely long overdue copy of King Kong Lives that Melvin rented once.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: The kidnapping of Keiko Nishi hits a very big obstacle when Paris (The Don the killers work for) reveals that Keiko's his god-daughter and that heads are most definitely going to roll.
  • Vanity Project: "Taste The Golden Spray". Written, directed, produced and starring Jiro Nishi, and marketed with the most expensive billboard ever (a motorized gold-plated statue). The result was a serious In-Universe Box Office Bomb that it drove Nishi straight into bankruptcy and suicidal depression.
  • 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]