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Hit and Miss

The single joke that has to power The Big Hit from start to finish is that the nice, polite suburban boy who wants everybody to like him and who meekly takes guff from the nerdy clerk at the video store is also a cold-blooded hitman who has whacked a hundred people in the last five or six years. It's the same joke--conformity holding hands with lunatic violence--that turned John Waters's Serial Mom into one of the most hilarious black comedies of the 1990s.

Unhappily, Mark Wahlberg's well-mannered young assassin, Melvin Smiley, is no match in the yuks department for Kathleen Turner's killer housewife in Waters's film. It takes Hong Kong action director Che-Kirk Wong (a protege of the master, John Woo) far too long to get his amoral farce in gear, and by the time he does it, we're pretty worn out by shootings, explosions, car chases and bombings that have displayed absolutely no sense of humor.

Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark) scored his Hollywood breakthrough last year when he played the ambitious young porn star of Boogie Nights. By contrast, he looks a little crowded here. In Hit, Melvin is just one member of a flashy, buff, multi-ethnic team of gun-boys that also sports Lou Diamond Phillips, Bokeem Woodbine, Robin Dunne and Antonio Sabato Jr. Decked out with infrared goggles, macho bandoliers and all the latest automatic weapons, they blast a noisy path through the underworld before Wong gets down to the serious business of satire.

Melvin, poor boy, is tormented. His greedy vixen, Chantel (Lela Rochon), has a mortgage and a Jaguar for him to finance, and his sometime fiancee, Pam (Christina Applegate), is a Jewish-American princess who hasn't yet told her cliche parents (Lainie Kazan and Elliott Gould) that Mel is a goy. To make things worse, Mel's crew has mistakenly kidnapped a pretty Japanese heiress (China Chow), who turns out to be the volatile boss's goddaughter. Pam's parents are coming for dinner. The garbage bags in the bathroom are stuffed with body parts. His partner wants to kill him. And...well, you get the idea.

Suffice it to say that Pam breaks her engagement with Mel in the midst of a major gun battle, his attempt to return a videotape to the rental counter culminates with the incineration of the store, and he finds true love in the arms of his kidnap victim.

But Wong has a tough time working his surreal comedy through the mayhem--at least until the last reel. By the time Melvin Smiley, a nice boy with a nasty job, wins us over, The Big Hit is D.O.A.

--Gallo

The Big Hit.
Screenplay by Ben Ramsey. Directed by Che-Kirk Wong. With Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Bokeem Woodbine and Antonio Sabato Jr.

 
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