The Hit (1984) is Wes Anderson’s fifth favourite British movie ever, Bill Hader loves it, and it has since become a bit of a cult favourite, but why is a crime thriller starring Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Tim Roth, with music by Eric Clapton and Roger Waters so little-known?
In the UK, part of the answer is that (insanely?) The Hit was never deemed worthy of a cinematic release, with the producers slipping it out on the ITV Network without fanfare on a Sunday night, if I recall correctly. This probably doomed the movie’s early reputation, as before the age of Netflix, exclusive premieres of movies on TV were then regarded as the very bottom of the barrel, usually reserved for titles bought from bankrupt distributors, or as the result of Byzantine inter-company deals.
1981’s heist movie Loophole was another odd one which received a TV premiere on BBC1 rather than a cinema release, despite the presence of stars Albert Finney, Martin Sheen and Susannah York.
Getting back to The Hit, Terence Stamp plays a snitch named “Willie Parker” that’s hiding out in the Spanish countryside, cultivating a zen-like attitude to life and his likely fate. Which perhaps stands him in good stead when hitmen Braddock (John Hurt) and his young apprentice, the thuggish Myron (Tim Roth) arrive to take care of his police protection and haul him to Paris for a no doubt excruciating death at the hands of betrayed gang boss Mr. Corrigan.
A road trip follows, where the fidgety Myron and the world weary Braddock are fazed by Parker’s apparent acceptance of his impending demise. That’s as far was I’ll go without spoiling the picture for you.
Only Stephen Frears’ second film at this point in his career (after a long interregnum in TV after 1971’s Gumshoe), The Hit presages later films such as his own magnificent The Grifters (1990), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Soderbergh’s The Limey (1999). And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tim Roth also had a pivotol role in Dogs and Stamp starred in The Limey. 2008’s In Bruges shares some of The Hit‘s ‘Brit Crims Abroad’ DNA, admittedly in much more comedic fashion. Sexy Beast (2000) in its Spanish setting may also owe something to the movie. Young Myron could be Don Logan (Ben Kingsley)’s nephew, come to think of it.
So this is me, recommending that you check out The Hit, you won’t regret it. And if you do, Mr Corrigan will send some of the ‘chaps’ round to change your mind….scroll to approx 5:10 in:
FUN FACT: Mr Corrigan was played by sightless British MOR singer Lennie Peters of Peters & Lee fame: