Color, 1973, 134m.
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Starring Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, Paul Hampton, Gwen Welles
Olive Films (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)


After his daughter drops dead in the nation's capitol from a smack overdose, DEA agent Nick Allen (Williams) takes the tragedy very, very personally and decides to do whatever he can to do some serious damage to the drug trade, especially after the dealer responsible for her bad batch winds up back out on the street. He manages to recruit a ragtag band of coHithorts all connected by damage from the drug trade including metal worker Mike (Pryor), whose wife got in the way of a heroin-based gunfight. When Nick manages to trace the origins of the stash to a bunch of high-living French scum bags in Marseilles, he uses all of the physical and psychological means at his disposal to execute a plan for maximum destruction to their operation.

Based on a simple description as well as its promotional art, Hit! seems like it could be in the same vein as an AIP exploitation film like Coffy. However, this sprawling, ambitious look at the ins and outs of international drug trading mixed with some lively action scenes (including an irrelevant but really fun car chase) is bound to surprise some viewers with its depth and the power of its final, still-timely final mHitessage. The colorful supporting cast includes some excellent turns for some familiar character actors like Gwen Welles (who had just starred in Roger Vadim's Hellé and was about to go on to Robert Altman films) as a sympathetic prostitute and an interesting turn by Paul Hampton in between Private Duty Nurses and David Cronenberg's Shivers.

Both Williams and Pryor had worked the earlier with this film's director, Sidney J. Furie, on the acclaimed Lady Sings the Blues (along with a few additional players in front of and behind the camera), but this is closer in tone and aesthetics to Furie's earlier thriller The Ipcress File. His expert manipulation of the scope frame is terrific as usual (later seen to great effect in The Entity as well), with excellent work by cinematographer John A. Alonzo (Chinatown, Harold and Maude). Then there's the crackerjack funk score by Lalo Schifrin, who somehow also managed to score Magnum Force, Harry in Your Pocket, and Enter the Dragon the same year! Of course, the real stars here are Williams and Pryor whose easy, charming interplay is a major factor in getting this film's epic length (by crime film standards) to whiz by with such ease. Williams could tend to get lost in undemanding heartthrob roles around this time (he followed this up with Mahogany, after all), but here he's firing on all thrusters and seems to be relishing a role that's equal parts Death Wish and The Sting. No doubt he was inspired by the script, which was co-written by Alan Trustman--a guy who definitely knew his way around the block thanks to writing Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair.

Seriously damaged by many years of terrible pan-and-scan transfers, Hit! gets its first correct scope release on home video courtesy of Olive Films' feature-only Blu-Ray and DVD releases. The former is the way to go if possible as it has a strong appearance with a very minimal amount of damage. This looks like a very nice, fresh 35mm print without any digital tweaking, which is probably the case here. The mono audio likewise sounds great with the DTS-HD option included here, and there's really nothing to complain about at all overall on the technical front. Take a shot on this one.

Reviewed on July 16, 2012.