As previously reported, there are plans for a remake of Michael Schultz’s 1973 film “Cooley High”. Needless to say, the idea of doing a remake of a beloved near classic went over like a ton of bricks with most of our readers. It’s like someone announced that they were going to do a remake of “Love Jones” or “Dolemite” (well, that one would really piss me off). There are some things that you simply don’t mess with.
But if you’re going to do a remake of a movie, why not, as I have argued before, remake a film with a great premise that wasn’t done well originally and could definitely be done better? A film like “Hit!” for example…
Never heard of “Hit!”? No real surprise. “Hit!” sort of came and went without much fanfare when it was released by Paramount in 1973 (It is currently available on blu-ray and DVD on the Olive Films label for those who haven’t seen it).
“Hit!” stars Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor. Sidney J. Furie, who also directed Williams and Pryor in 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues” – directed the film; at the time, all three of them were riding high after the success of “Blues”, and the studio thought it was good idea to get them all back together again; but this time without Diana Ross.
The result was this action thriller in which Williams plays a federal agent whose daughter dies from a drug overdose. He’s determined to track down the suppliers all the way to Marseilles, and kill them all. However, there’s a clever twist. Instead of rounding up a team made up of other agents and professionals to track down and eliminate the dealers, Williams, to avoid being discovered at what he’s up to by his superiors (though they do find out and try to stop him), comes up with another plan. He puts together a team of ordinary people, including Pryor and an elderly couple, whose lives have been destroyed tragically by drugs, and trains them on how to assist in wiping out the dealers.
Great premise, but sloppy execution in the original movie. For an action thriller, “Hit!” takes forever to get started, and once it does, it comes with very little action or thrills. What little action there is in the film is botched. For example, halfway through, there’s a car chase shot entirely from inside the cars. Now I’m sure that director Furie thought he was being every clever by doing that, but the result is a car chase sequence with no tension nor thrills, since the audience can’t see what’s going on, from the outside, on the streets.
The action does pick up a bit during the last 30 or so minutes of the film’s 134-minutes running time, but by the time it happens, it’s too little, too late.
It’s a film of missed opportunities, which is a real shame, since it has a lot of things going for it – like Pryor in great form, as you can see in the brief clip below.
But the premise has all the ingredients for an exciting, high octane, thrill-a-minute, action movie, and I think this is a case where a remake is very much warranted. But I would make some major plot and casting changes.
First, for the Williams role, I’m sure many would automatically think Denzel Washington or Idris Elba, but I would actually get Jamie Foxx. Why not? The guy is a superb dramatic actor and he can do the action stuff.
Second, of course there are no Richard Pryors anymore, but in “Hit!” you need an actor who can also play funny when necessary, to undercut the seriousness of the film, so I would go for Eddie Murphy. Like Foxx, he’s a really good dramatic actor when given the chance, and he’s long overdue for a comeback in really great role. (And no Kevin Hart!)
Another change would be the locale. The original film was partially set in Marseilles because it was following in the footsteps of the 1971 film “The French Connection,” which was also partially set in Marseilles because that was supposedly the center of heroin distribution in the would. It was fiction of course, but if it worked for that film and other copycats thrillers, why not “Hit!” One would assume that a film like this made today would be set in a place like Mexico, like “Sicario,” but I would make it a more globe-trotting Jason Bourne thriller, taking place in various places around the world.
Finally, of course I would put a lot more action in it – physical fights, shootouts and car chases – which I would film more muscularly, getting coverage both inside the cars and out on the streets, so the audience can get a comprehensive view of what’s going on (unlike the original film).
What do you think? Watch a clip below from the film: