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Friday, January 15, 2010

THE HIT (1984)

Helmer Stephen Frears moved from tv to features with this typically fine pic which is modest in scale, but develops remarkable intellectual & emotional depth. Ten years after flipping on his old crime buddies, Terence Stamp is living a comfortable life in Spain when he’s grabbed by a couple of hitman; seasoned pro (John Hurt) and high-strung kid (Tim Roth). As they drive toward the French/Spanish border, unforeseen circumstances bring a young local woman into the mix, and the delicate balance between hostages & kidnappers collapses. Bodies begin to pile up every time they need to stop, and something approaching psychological madness takes hold. Except for Stamp, who retains an unnerving Zen-like calm in the face of his imminent mortality. Something’s gotta give. Frears hasn’t quite mastered the technique to get the most out of the brief, but fierce action sequences, but he already shows an easy mastery dealing with character, shot placement and pacing. (There are some key shared elements between this film and Don Siegel’s version of THE KILLERS/’64, especially in the role of the hot-headed punk killer. But where Clu Gulager poses, Tim Roth acts.) The climax is a short, sharp, shock, built on what you don’t see coming, and if the tag doesn’t quite convince, it’s comes close enough. With films as wide ranging as MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE/’85, THE GRIFTERS/’90, THE SNAPPER/’93, HIGH FIDELITY/’00 and THE QUEEN/’‘06 on his C.V., Frears seems unfazed by any genre. And untouchable at pulling the best out of his actors.

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