Directed by Stephen Frears
UK 1984


Terence Stamp is Willie, a gangster’s henchman turned “supergrass” (informer) trying to live in peaceful hiding in a remote Spanish village. Sun-dappled bliss turns to nerve-racking suspense, however, when two hit men—played by a soulless John Hurt and a youthful, loose-cannon Tim Roth—come a-calling to bring Willie back for execution. This stylish early gem from Stephen Frears boasts terrific performances from a roster of England’s best hard-boiled actors, music by Eric Clapton and virtuoso flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía, and ravishing photography of its desolate Spanish locations—a splendid backdrop for a rather sordid story.


This memorable drama helped bring British director Stephen Frears back from the limited opportunities of television (where he spent 13 years after making his promising debut feature, Gumshoe) and into the ranks of world-class filmmakers. Driven by the self-confident charisma of Terence Stamp, the vicious charm of John Hurt, and a fascinating debut performance by Tim Roth, The Hit concerns a criminal informant (Stamp) on ice for the past decade in Spain. Found out by the mobster who wants revenge on him, Stamp's character is apprehended by a pair of hit men who have to escort him to Paris. Along the way, the serene abductee, having become a bit enlightened during his ten-year retreat, seems not to worry about death or anything else. It's his overseers who feel the strain of their imminent task of spilling his blood. Smart, very funny, and very unconventional, The Hit is also a treat to look at as Frears enjoys the expanse of the big screen again.

Tom Keogh at Amazon HERE


Theatrical Release: September 12th, 1984 - Toronto Film Festival

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 469 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:38:03 
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.86 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary featuring director Stephen Frears, actors John Hurt and Tim Roth, writer Peter Prince, and editor Mick Audsley
• A 1988 interview with actor Terence Stamp from the television show Parkinson One-to-One (36:56)
• Original theatrical trailer
• 16-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Graham Fuller

DVD Release Date: April 28th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 14



Artisan came out with Frear's The Hit on DVD, HERE,  back in 2002, but it has been out-of-print for a while fetching high prices in auction.  Strangely, I don't own it to compare. The film, while feigning a directionless crime-drama, has deeper things to impart. It keeps you guessing whilst on a road trip with a unsettled carload of mysterious, and potentially dangerous, characters. 

Criterion's transfer is clean, dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic in a 1.78 frame-filling aspect ratio. There are plenty of outdoors scenes with SD colors and healthy detail. I wouldn't say it looks magnificent but is probably a reasonable facsimile of the original. It appears to have a faded appearance at times but the film is 1/4 century old and may reflect the source used. 

The mono track is unremarkable but clean and audible. Clapton's title music sounds adequately 'drifting'. There are optional English subtitles.

In the commentary the filmmaker participants initially discuss their early TV collaborations and the actors (Stamp gives input as well but is not listed) give their pleasant memories of production. Each chirp-in, some later in the film, with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. I don't know that some weren't recorded separately as they occasionally reference each other as if they weren't in the same studio. It seems cohesive enough to enjoy and appreciate the information they present but despite there being six of them - there are some gaps. There is also a 1/2 hour interview with Stamp from 1988 Granada Television, a trailer and a 16-page liner notes booklet with photos and a new essay by film critic Graham Fuller.  

This is a lower-tier priced Criterion release and a very enjoyable film. It's curious nature makes it hard to nail down giving it prime value for re-visitation. Researching it I found it unjustly neglected from critical coverage. I've enjoyed what Frear's work I have seen and hope Criterion expose more 'forgotten' cinema of this nature in the future.   

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 469 - Region 1 - NTSC


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