The Hit (Frears, 1984)

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Before the comedic and weighty social commentaries My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Stephen Frears dealt with the hierarchical power struggles of fringe characters on an instinctual level in his sun-drenched Gangster film The Hit. Traditional genre archetypes – the hit man, the mole, the apprentice – are boiled down to the barest essentials, then thrown together to simmer under the harsh heat of the Spanish landscape. This scenario pits each character against the element of time, whether it’s John Hurt’s veteran assassin attempting to teach Tim Roth’s naive upstart or Terrence Stamp’s stool pigeon facing inevitable death, all vying for control of a botched kidnapping that ripples outward and seemingly touches all aspects of the locale. Frears also wonderfully juxtaposes the blinding light and endless openness of the desolate countryside with the dangerous and dark menace of Gangster film motifs, most importantly betrayal. The Hit takes on an ambiguous, almost metaphysical stance toward the weaknesses of its characters, men and women traversing a deadly path riddled with deception and sudden pin point violence. Fate catches up with you in the end, but you’ll see it coming a mile away.

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