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Nobody does brooding crime dramas quite like the brits. And while the best of the lot is already a bonafide masterpiece and a touchstone for modern style…there’s plenty more where that came from.

For instance, Stephen Frears’ The Hit was just rescued from obscurity by way of a Criterion release. The plot’s pretty simple—Tim Roth and an unusually Astley-esque John Hurt chauffeur mob informer Terrence Stamp across Spain to an all-but-certain death in Paris—but the real draw is the casual bleakness, flights of existential fancy, and practical lessons in how hired killers dress for the desert.

Along the road, the script finds room for everything from Donne sonnets to Pinteresque verbal jousting, while making time to stop and admire the countryside. The idea of vacationing through Iberia with a pair of hitmen may seem like a page from the soon-to-come Tarantino playbook—Roth is certainly warming up for Reservoir Dogs—but there’s a level of lyricism unheard of in most gangster movies.

The trio also passes almost the entire film without a wardrobe change, so Stamp’s Spanish whites and Hurt’s khaki suit see more than their share of action. Roth, the newcomer of the crowd, is the sartorial odd man out. The lesson? Next time you’re trekking through Spain, leave the bomber jacket at home.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom