The Hit



Directed by

Stephen Frears




Written by

Peter Prince




Release Date

March 8, 1985 (USA)










John Hurt

Terence Stamp

Tim Roth

A critique by Andrew Abraido



Road movies. You've seen them. They usually involve a vehicle, some people, a far-off destination, and the shenanigans that happen along the way.


The Hit is a road movie. Helmed by British vet Stephen Frears (unfortunately, now more well-known for The Queen), The Hit follows former English mobster Willie Parker (Terence Stamp), who finds himself relocated to Spain after he sings against one of his former cohorts.


Just like in real life, his past comes back to find him and the journey begins to march Willie all the way to Paris where the goon he crooned against will silence him forever. Along for the ride on this journey are John (Merrick) Hurt, a very, very young Tim Roth, and a busty kidnapee (Laura del Sol).


Hurt and Roth are (BRILLIANTLY) cast as the veteran master and apprentice assassins, respectively, and make the film entirely worthwhile. Hurt's character seeps with "cool", as though he's ripped out of a Godard film. His physical appearance is a dead shot hybridization of David Lynch and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (odd, I know...but I DARE you to call bullshit because the description is 100% accurate). Roth's character (quite eerily) is Ryan Gosling with a cockney accent, and dresses his eyes in a pair of shades that would make Travis Bickle proud.


These are the two gentlemen responsible for transporting the "innocent" Willie (decked out in an all-white outfit to prove it) to meet his vengeful fate in Paris. Along the way, our dead ringing anti-heroes (inadvertently) leave crimes like bread crumbs behind them that have the authorities hot on their trail. The interesting thing here is that despite the excessive lengths our bumbling kidnapper assassins go through to try and conceal their crimes within a crime, all efforts ultimately fall short and provide the authorities with more fuel for their pursuit. Though we are led to believe that Hurt's character is a seasoned killer for hire, one of the best, his ineptitude is gleaming. Whether due to age or just not giving a fuck anymore, his incompetence fills Willie with hope that he may indeed escape his fate if he can prolong the arrival at Paris as much as possible.


In addition to the high jinks that ensue along this journey, there's a fair share of philosophy and existential musings that balance out the narrative. Willy channels Nietzsche and Dostoevsky throughout the adventure, dishing out such lines as "death is as natural as breathing" in an attempt to flex his "unafraid" and "at peace with his looming fate" muscles. Most of his philosophical renderings are delivered rather smugly though, as if he's trying to work the reverse-psychology angle against his captors, or as if he has a master plan of escape. Without giving too much away, let's just say that Willie's "sincerity" in his own ramblings is revealed towards the end of the film, and lets us know that he may or may not be the same coward that sung and fled in the first place.


The film certainly treads the line between pitch black sort-of comedy and drama at parts, but ultimately the more serious elements prevail (as they should). This is a witty, well-made film that is surely worthy of its Criterion designation. Catch it if you get the chance.



Bottom Line: 4.0/5.0