The Big Hit

on April 24, 1998 by Wade Major
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   While the fusion of over-the-top action with broad comedy has long been a successful staple of the Hong Kong movie industry, such offbeat concoctions have never proven particularly popular in Hollywood. Which probably accounts for why the makers of "The Big Hit"--a crew of Hong Kong filmmakers and fans that includes producer Wesley Snipes, executive producers John Woo and Terence Chang, and director Kirk Wong--felt compelled to bring the genre to America. Unfortunately, despite a promising premise, the film never manages to be much more than an adolescent exercise in caricatures, so inappropriately broad in its humor that it almost makes "Airplane" look like a documentary.
   Ostensibly the story of three hunky hitmen (Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips and Bokeem Woodbine) who inadvertently incur the wrath of their employer (Avery Brooks) when they kidnap his goddaughter (China Chow), the inaptly titled "The Big Hit" provides only a smattering of the high-octane action promised by the film's marketing. Instead, audiences are treated to a never-ending barrage of exaggerated ethnic stereotypes and sitcom setups, some of which are so ridiculously broad as to elicit laughter for the sheer audacity of including them in a major studio film.
   Beyond its comedic missteps, "The Big Hit" also fails to maintain even minimal narrative cohesion. A fourth hitman, played by Antonio Sabato Jr., is introduced as part of the "team" in the opening sequence, only to suddenly disappear without any explanation for the remainder of the caper. A similar fate awaits Woodbine, who is likewise removed from the picture soon after the kidnapping, leaving only Wahlberg and the overacting Phillips to tie things up with a disappointingly conventional "mano a mano" action finale.
   Most disappointing of all is the contribution of director Wong, one of Hong Kong's most elite action filmmakers, best known for the excellent Jackie Chan film "Crime Story." Here, however, Wong's talents are entirely submerged, barely even evident in the handful of elaborate action sequences which are already too far and few between. Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Christina Applegate, Antonio Sabato Jr., Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould, Sab Shimono and Lela Rochon. Directed by Che-Kirk Wong. Written by Ben Ramsey. Produced by Warren Zide and Wesley Snipes. A TriStar release. Action/Comedy. Rated R for violence, pervasive language and some sexuality. Running time: 92 min
Tags: Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Christina Applegate, Antonio Sabato Jr., Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould, Sab Shimono and Lela Rochon. Directed by Che-Kirk Wong. Written by Ben Ramsey. Produced by Warren Zide and Wesley Snipes. A TriStar release. Action/Comedy, cohesion, hitman, concotions, humor
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