So far Sony has released some solid mid-line titles on Blu-ray. While they're saving the big blockbusters for a time when more households have Blu-ray players, early adopter are getting some decent titles overall. When The Big Hit was scheduled for release as a BR title, I thought I'd finally get around to screening the movie. The movie has been released a few times before, including as a Superbit title, it has a good cast including Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips, and John Woo was a producer. How bad could it be? Well, the answer is pretty damn bad. It turns out that this is one of those movies that you can't believe ever managed to get made, much less have a theatrical release. A dumb movie that will not convince anyone to buy a Blu-ray player.
This self-proclaimed "explosive action comedy" star Mark Wahlberg as hitman Melvin Smiley. Though Melvin has killed over 100 people in the past five years, he's really a nice guy, and just wants everyone to like him. He's partnered with three other assassins (Phillips, Kokeem Woodbine, and Antonio Sabato, Jr.) and together they work for Paris (Avery Brooks) a man who hires out his deadly team for a high price.
When Smiley's girlfriend demands $25,000 for living expenses, and his fiancee informs him that she's lent all of his cash to her parents, Poor Melvin has to raise some cash, and quick. So he takes his pal Cisco (Phillips) up on an offer to do a little free-lance work and kidnap a rich heiress (China Chow.) When the heiress turns out to be Paris' Goddaughter, Cisico is hired to find out who perpetrated the crime and kill them. With the hostage being held at Melvin's house, Cisco comes up with a way to clear himself; by turning Smiley into a fall guy.
While the plot seems vaguely interesting, the actual script saps any possible interest or enjoyment out of the film. It was just horrible. The film portrays Melvin as being a James Bond-like assassin but one who's pushed around by his girlfriends and his own teammates. What?
In the opening sequence the four men have to storm a hotel where a mafia boss is staying and kill him. Melvin rushes in first, taking out mobsters left and right without getting a scratch while his teammates hold back until the danger is over. Smiley kills the target, but then sees four more guys running after him and has to high tail it out of there. I mean he's already killed 20 or 30 armed men, but four is way too much to handle. Jumping out a window that just happens to overlook a pool, he escapes in spectacular fashion. After doing all of the work however, he gives his bonus money over to Cisco who claims that it was he who actually killed the mo boss. We're supposed to believe in a wimpy cold-blooded killer?
That would be bad enough, but this is a comedy, remember? The separate the action sequences with comedy scenes that are embarrassingly bad. There's the wild and wacky part where Melvin has to hide the kidnapped girl (who's hopping around the house) from his fiancee and her parents while also trying to dispose of a dismembered corpse. He has to fight a dog over a bag of human remains and then run in and find out where his hostage has gotten to. What hilarious fun!
While watching this movie I kept telling myself that it had to get better. It couldn't possibly be this bad. I was wrong. It was that bad, and even worse. The script was inane, the acting never rose above mediocre, and the plot was uninteresting. One of the worst movies I've seen all year.
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this.
The 1080p MPEG2 widescreen (1.85:1) image looks nice but not outstanding. This is about average for a Sony Blu-ray disc with some very nice scenes that really pop off the screen, and others that appear flat and lifeless. It does look better than a standard definition disc, but it doesn't look as good as the best Blu-ray discs either. The scene where Whalberg jumps out of a window just as the entire floor of a hotel explodes (wasn't that done a decade earlier in Die Hard?) is rich and full of detail. The fireball has a real three dimensional look to it with a lot of texture and detail. Many of the other sequences don't live up to that scene's standard however. Many of the supposedly comical parts are just flat and lifeless and a bit disappointing.
The colors were generally nice though not as strong as they could have been in a couple of parts. The level of detail was acceptable for HD video, though nothing to write home about. Digitally there weren't any major defects. Overall a so-so looking disc.
This disc comes with a PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track as well as a DD 5.1 track in English and French. The film just didn't have a very good soundtrack and the mix wasn't very impressive either. There was some use made of the soundstage, but that was only during the action scenes. During the rest of the time it was pretty much a stereo mix. The music was overbearing and intrusive, telling viewers what they should feel and think since the action on the screen wasn't enough to get the point across I assume, and that really marred the film for me. (That was like a headache to a drowning man though... so much else was wrong with the film the soundtrack was the least of my concerns.)
The sound was reproduced well I suppose, though the tail end of some sentences would have a lower volume than the rest of the dialog sometimes. I assume this was an over enthusiastic mixer trying out something new. It didn't work. The low end was pretty meager too, without a lot of *umph* even during explosions. Since this was filmed in '98 I was expecting a bit more.
There are subtitles in seven languages including English.
There are two commentaries provided with this disc, one with director Che-Kirk Wong and producer Terrence Chang and the second with writer Ben Ramsey. In all honesty, I only spot checked these. The movie was so wretchedly bad that I couldn't stand to sit through it again, much less twice. They just don't pay me enough. From what I heard of both tracks, there's not much here. None of the stories were remotely interesting and both commentaries sounded as lame as the film itself.
Just avoid this steaming pile of crap. This movie doesn't work
on any level. The action parts are cliched and unexciting, the comedy
is just stupid, and the plot is nonsensical. This is a bad movie.
As for the look of this Blu-ray disc, it looks okay, but it won't win any
awards. If you have a Blu-ray player, you didn't buy it to watch
movies like this. Skip it.