Castor’s Underrated Gems – The Hit (1984)

Eric Clapton and Roger Waters’ title track is no more than moody guitar thrumming but it is a perfectly minimalist accompaniment to Stephen Frears’ picaresque, introspective British road movie. The film is quite cavalier about Willie Parker’s (Terrence Stamp) embroilment in London gangster activities and to that extent, it is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek. The “We’ll Meet Again” crane shot in the courtroom is a signpost to Frears’ baroque naughtiness.

10 years of Spanish exile is a truncated paradise for Willie as he is eventually shanghaied for his quisling betrayal. What might be hard-boiled in an Elmore Leonard novel or Michael Mann is rendered rather mundane and facile by Frears which aligns with the film’s laid-back, Stockholm Syndrome sensibility. No musical stingers during Willie’s cat-and-mouse abduction and no travailing struggle by Willie as if he was cognizant that he is basking on borrowed time.

Willie’s tranquil philosophy is “what happens before you die isn’t much different than when you die” which perplexes a young hotspur like Myron (Tim Roth). It’s a fait accompli and Willie doesn’t grovel for escape and he isn’t shackled en route to Paris, France. In fact, Willie is openly facetious about his execution from the backseat.

The Hit (1984) in 2019 | Terence stamp, Tim roth, Stamp

The inclusion of Maggie (Laura del Sol) is cataclysmic to the cross-country claustrophobia and she is merely a femme fatale plot device. On the other hand, Braddock’s (John Hurt) preoccupation with her is genuinely inscrutable as to whether he is smitten with her or gradually distempering his killer instinct. For admirers of Hurt, this is him at his most subdued and therefore menacing because, behind his sunglasses and few elusive syllables, his ulterior motives for not instantly dispatching Maggie are turbid.

Peter Prince gallantly burrows into the Epicurean, peaceful nirvana of a looming death sentence specifically during a breathtaking scene in which Willie is ruminative by a waterfall while Braddock’s gun is drawn on him and later when Willie quotes John Lennon’s doctrine on mortality. Overall, the film’s impression is opiate yet unpredictable. In terms of double features, it could be juxtaposed next to The Limey as a Stamp companion piece.

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