It’s tough to even know where to begin with 1984’s the Hit. One part classic British gangster film, one part road trip, with a splash of philosophical probing thrown across it. All of which swirl together to create a film that stands far apart in an overcrowded field of crime dramas. The narrative focuses on small-time gangster Willie Parker, played by Terence Stamp, living under witness protection in Spain, after providing key testimony against his mob bosses back in England. 10 years after sending his brothers-in-crime up the river, he finds himself facing a pair of hit men sent to even the score.
But Parker isn’t particularly disturbed by the idea of meeting his maker, especially since he assumes he’ll get one last chance to face the men he ratted on (now holed up in France). And what ensues is a strangely serene road trip through the Spanish countryside, punctuated by violence, and dogged by the footsteps of the Spanish police force.
The second theater-released feature film of noted British director Stephen Frears – most famous for the Queen, High Fidelity, and Dangerous Liaisons – the Hit is a near-perfect marriage of style and substance. Written by novelist Peter Prince, it not only features Stamp, but the great – and sadly recently deceased – John Hurt, just ahead of his role in 1984. Tim Roth makes his feature debut, heading toward what became a highly successful Hollywood career. Add in veteran Spanish actor Fernando Rey and the beautiful Laura del Sol in supporting roles and it’s an outstandingly strong small cast.
More than anything, the Hit is about one man attempting to come to grips with his death, and the very specific world view and philosophy he builds in order to do so. It’s not always the most sensible crime thriller, opportunities for escape come and go, the hit men’s mission moves from crystal clear to cloudy. But the performances, the setting, and the style are something that shouldn’t be missed.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
One False Move (1992)
Mona Lisa (1986)
Road Games (1981)
The Grifters (1990)