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The Hit - Vendetta
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Willie Parker e' un gangster. Braddock e' un killer. Dopo aver testimoniato contro i suoi ex complici, Willie Parker si rifugia in Spagna nel tentativo di sfuggire alla loro vendetta. Per dieci anni vive nel terrore di essere scoperto e si prepara a fronteggiare la propria inevitabile esecuzione...
Willie Parker è un gangster. Braddock è un killer. Dopo aver testimoniato contro i suoi ex complici, Willie Parker si rifugia in Spagna nel tentativo di sfuggire alla loro vendetta. Per dieci anni vive nel terrore di essere scoperto e si prepara a fronteggiare la propria inevitabile esecuzione...
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Stephen Frears, not yet a hack, directed this fabulous example of BritNoir in the mid-'80's, where it was barely exhibited in the US. The sun-drenched Spanish locations are a special joy, contrasting with the increasingly grim story, and Frears builds up an admirable amount of tension, leading to explosive bursts of orchestrated violence. This film is genuinely unpredictable, thanks in large part to a literate, Pinter-esque script, the fact that the action is character-generated, and three generations of great UK actors are on hand to deliver the crowning glory of the film, its performances, I've saved the best for last:
Terence Stamp, in his return to the big screen after a lengthy absence, gives his greatest performance, better even than the much-vaunted "The Limey," as the smiling martyr. His charm and serenity un-nerve his would-be killers, and starts to un-nerve us as well;
Tim Roth, in his first feature film, as the soccer hooligan driver on his very first hit; when you see this squirrely apprentice, you know that he is the weak link, and watch how Stamp zeroes right in on him because he sees this too. Watch also how Roth delivers a head-butt as though it was a daily occurrence.
The Angel of Death -- John Hurt as the veteran assassin. He is the voluable, handsome, sun-tanned Stamp's polar opposite, he speaks monosyllabically, if at all, will not indulge his captive's fondness for philosophy, and is seemingly oblivious to all but the job at hand. He has no discernable personality, and Hurt, with his dry croak of a voice, shaded eyes, pasty white skin that seems to blanch from the Spanish sun, as though he's not used to daylight, and increasingly filthy white suit, makes him a frightening incarnation, keeping superhuman cool as a simple assignment falls apart and becomes a bloodbath. Not since Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West have I seen an actor do more with so few lines and an inexpressive visage.
Extra credit goes to Laura del Sol, veteran of Carlos Saura's flamenco musicals, as the gorgeous hostage the killers are forced to take on board in one of the film's escalating plot complications: she speaks not a word of English, but she incarnates a will to survive - and an instinctive loathing of the Hurt character - that marks her out as a Mediterranean life force, in contrast to Hurt's Northern European death-drive; just as Stamp's equanimity in the face of death begins to drive the Roth character nuts, her Magnani-like sexuality begins to take its toll on Hurt's impassive murderousness.
Anyway, if you want to see a genuine little sleeper of a movie, decked out with a great cast, you could do worse then The Hit. Criterion once again shows fabulous acumen in rescuing a great one from oblivion. A great addition to the British tradition of off-beat gangster movies, like Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and Performance.
Later Reservoir Dogs made Tim Roth famous and for good reason but here you get his debut doing it all for the first time. And Hurt is always scary as hell like he's haunted with some knowledge about human nature that you nor I nor anyone will ever know about.
On the surface, this is a straightforward tale of a mafia style abduction and murder; and it can be viewed and enjoyed on this level only. Yet, when you look beyond the action and study the characters, the possibilities for the motivations and circumstances of their actions become infinite.
I have viewed this movie many times, and I still am trying to decipher the subtext(s): Is Braddock intentionally making the job more complex than it needs to be? Does Willie (the intended victim) really believe in the spiritual peace he claims to have found, or is it just a pretext to stay alive long enough to save himself through trickery? Who exactly is the young Spanish girl?
This is one of those films which can be viewed again and again, each time presenting something different to the viewer....
Having never seen this film, I was extremely excited to see that it was to be released on DVD finally...until I noticed that Artisan was going to release it. Sure enough, Artisan has done it again, offering The Hit in a pan & scan format. Surely this is not an action cheapie, and as such deserves better treatment than Artisan is putting out.
If you don't care about format, ignore my review. If you do care, I suggest that you be careful buying any Artisan DVDs, as they are releasing loads of P & S titles these days.
Would someone in authority please advise Artisan to raise their price point and release these films in a double-sided disc offering both formats, a la Warner Brothers?