Hit Me

Another stylish descent into the Jim Thompson inferno, where tiny buds of hope foolish enough to poke their heads through the harsh soil of despair, betrayal and violence are poisoned before they can so much as think of flowering. Aging bellhop Sonny (Elias Koteas) is trapped in a life of poverty and desperation: His degrading gig at the seedy Stillwell...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Another stylish descent into the Jim Thompson inferno, where tiny buds of hope foolish enough to poke their heads through the harsh soil of despair, betrayal and violence are poisoned before they can so much as think of flowering. Aging bellhop Sonny

(Elias Koteas) is trapped in a life of poverty and desperation: His degrading gig at the seedy Stillwell hotel is made worse by sadistic security head Cougar (Kevin J. O'Connor), and his home life revolves around caring for his retarded brother Leroy (Jay Leggett). A brief encounter with stunning

but suicidal guest Monique (Laure Marsac) is the dismal capper. She has a full-blown emotional meltdown after they have sex, and Sonny's job is on the line: Sleeping with hotel patrons is the ultimate no-no. Enter old buddy Del (Bruce Ramsey), who shuts up Monique and offers Sonny in on a plan

to rob the illegal poker game of local tough Lenny Ish (Philip Baker Hall). Of course the robbery goes all to hell, sucking Sonny's already miserable life right down after it. Based on Thompson's harrowing A Swell-Looking Babe, director Steven Shainberg's feature debut is an ordeal of

entirely the wrong kind, all set design and long, long closeups of Koteas' miserable face as he contemplates each new way he's getting royally screwed. Thompson's tight, pulpy novels can be as miserable as all hell, but the gleeful perversity of his characters makes you hang in with them to

the bitter end. With the exception of craggy Hall's Lenny Ish, none of Shainberg's characters ring true: There's a whole lotta acting going on, and you never forget it. And at more than two hours, the movie's an endurance test, a three-course banquet of misery when it should be a breathless slice

of crap pie.

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