Film review: Big Hit, The

Published: Friday, April 24 1998 12:01 a.m. MDT

Given his love for the Hong Kong action films of John Woo, it was only natural that Quentin Tarantino would make one of his own. The trouble is, someone already beat him to the punch with "The Big Hit."

Every bit as frustating as it is entertaining, this black comedy/ thriller takes its plotting and dialogue cues from Tarantino (meaning there is rampant use of profanity) and its startling visual style from Woo, who served as the film's executive producer.

Unfortunately, it's a very uneasy blending of the two styles, and as a result there as many awful moments as good ones — at least until the extremely unsatisfying and drawn-out conclusion, which blows things completely.

Still, the film starts out promisingly enough. Professional hitmen Melvin (Mark Wahlberg, from "Boogie Nights") and Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips) decide to take on an additional project for extra cash: the kidnapping of a millionaire's daughter (newcomer China Chow, Wahlberg's real-life love).

Unfortunately for them, the girl turns out to be the goddaughter of their extremely vengeful employer, Paris (Avery Brooks, from TV's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"). Cisco conceals his involvement in the kidnapping and frames Melvin for the deed. Guess who gets sent after his former partner?

In the meantime, Melvin has his hands full just keeping the smart-alecky schoolgirl tied up, as well as concealing her presence from his clueless fiance (Christina Applegate) and parents (Elliott Gould and Lanie Kazan). Things heat up considerably when Cisco and his cohorts decide to crash Melvin's planned quiet dinner with his soon-to-be in-laws.

Kirk Wong, a protege of Woo's who helmed the Jackie Chan thriller "Police Story," shows considerable flair for directing action sequences. But all his work is undone by actor-turned-screenwriter Ben Ramsey, who can't decide what tone to use. When it's not throwing cliched lines around, Ramsey's script parodies everything from "Ghost" to "Cannonball Run" to "The Chase."

Worse still, Wahlberg gets stuck playing straight man to Phillips' awful Chicano Chris Rock impression, while Brooks seems to think he's performing Shakespeare (at least judging by his stentorian delivery).

Of course, all three of their performances are brilliant in comparison with the offensively stereotypical turns by Gould and Kazan, who should be ashamed.

"The Big Hit" is rated R for violent gunplay and martial-arts fighting, profanity, vulgar jokes and references, gore, male nudity and an attempted rape.