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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Action > Comedy > Gangster > The Big Hit (Blu-ray)

The Big Hit (Blu-ray)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: C



Backed by cinematic martial arts icons John Woo and Wesley Snipes, Che-Kirk Wong’s The Big Hit (1998) was intended to be the little film that could or would.  The idea was to mix the martial arts film and Gangster genre with comedy and try to break genre conventions in a way we had not seen before.  A new cycle was upon us of martial arts films, while Gangster films had a new era thrust upon it by a boom and plethora of classics in 1990 like Miller’s Crossing, Goodfellas and the underrated State Of Grace among others.


Mark Wahlberg stars as Melvin Smiley, one of a group of young hitmen.  He wants everyone to like him, but he still kills for a price and is naďve to the contradiction, so insecure is he.  Propped up by good friends in these shaky undertakings (Antonio Sabato Jr., Lou Diamond Philips and Bokeem Woodbine), things might work out somehow and he even has a nice girlfriend (Christina Applegate) with somewhat dysfunctional parents (Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould) who partly explain why she might be compatible with his neurosis.


For Melvin’s next assignment, it turns out that he wants it to be his last, but his employers have the same idea with more fatal consequences.  So now, he is on the run, trying to figure out what is wrong and counting on his friends to help him.  Unfortunately, his kindness is about to be taken as weakness and all hell is about to break loose.


Of course, there is action, but there is comedy.  However, it turns out to be more than usual and the film pushes it to the point of being tragically hip instead of simply so.  Woodbine’s character has a XXX film addiction that becomes obnoxious more than funny and epitomizes the film’s attempt to try to have it both ways with masculinity.  On the one hand, it wants to appeal to tough guys and be funny about it, but then it soon implodes after all the characters have been established.  This is followed by plot contrivances that destroy all credibility that whittles the viewer down to maybe stay for the action.  Too bad that is not the focus of the film in the first place.


Even other performances by Sab Shimino, Avery Brooks, Lela Rochon and China Chow are not bad, but the film is such a mess when all is said and done that you don’t know where it is coming from, where it is going or what the point is.  The idea was that the film was supposed to be either a genre-breaker or maybe even trying to invent some new kind of hybrid model of action comedy, but despite some ambition and good intentions, the film falls through.  Through the rise and fall of the latest martial arts cycle and a few previous regular DVD incarnations, Sony thinks this might catch on.  However, it will always remain just a curio that never really worked because writer Ben Ramsey was both unfocused and too impressed with what he was mixing up here to see the final result.  All in all, an act of genre alchemy that should send many back to the writing lab.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot by Danny Nowak, trying to capture the directors martial arts visuals and juggle the comedy at the same time.  A few visuals are interesting, especially with limited digital effects of the time.  However, like fellow standard DVD Superbit title release A Knight’s Tale on Blu-ray (reviewed that way elsewhere on this site); this transfer is detail-challenged in a way that does not deliver what Blu-ray is best capable of.  That this is not weak Super 35mm shooting makes it all the more disappointing, so this is barely better than the Superbit DVD.


The PCM 5.1 16bit/48kHz sound mix is about as good as the DTS from that standard DVD Superbit edition, but this mix also reveals the limits in fidelity form being a low-budget production and has limited surrounds.  They do kick in somewhat during the action sequences, but it now sounds more dated than ever.  Graeme Revell, who already had fine work under his belt like Dead Calm, The Crow and From Dusk Till Dawn before moving on to the Riddick franchise, the underrated Below and the current Sin City films, helps by delivering a decent score.  However, the sonics overall are lacking.


Extras include two audio commentaries, one of which is by Ramsey, the other by Wong and Executive Producer Terence Chang.  They are also interesting in what they say and especially as compared to what does or does not work.  For a movie with a small following at best, these were good ideas.  It should be added that we do not think the room the tracks take interfere with the audio performance much, but wonder if it is affecting the picture in any way.  After another Gangster film that bombed, writer Ramsey has penned a screenplay for a feature film of the Marvel Comics’ character Luke Cage, with John Singleton set to direct.  We’ll see what he has learned in the last eight years then.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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