Direct Hit

(Joseph Merhi, USA, 1994)


Although the early ’90s action movies of note (such as Hard Boiled  [1992] and Cliffhanger [1993]) took a very spectacular, strenuously physical route, there is another, quieter tradition within the genre.

This kind of story patiently follows an underworld professional – getaway driver, drug dealer, hit man – as he silently goes about his work, eventually confronting an ethical or existential crisis within himself. Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978) and Paul Schrader‘s Light Sleeper (1992) are two key movies in this tradition.

Direct Hit owes something to these films, and also Diary of a Hitman (1992) with Forest Whitaker.

Hatch (William Forsythe) is a taciturn assassin working for a corrupt government agency; under his bed is a trap door leading to a secret museum commemorating his many cold-blooded murders.

Already morally troubled and keen to quit, Hatch’s final assignment changes him radically: faced with the innocent Savannah (Jo Champa), he can no longer kill.

The production team of Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin churns out an amazing number of action films each year. This is one of their more thoughtful and accomplished efforts.

Merhi takes the director’s chair this time, and his work is nothing if not systematic: after presenting most of Hatch’s story in cool blue tones, he shoots the bloody action finale through a bright red filter.

MORE Pepin/Merhi: Magic Kid, To Be the Best

© Adrian Martin July 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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