The film was shot in Hamilton and Pickering, Ontario, Canada.
Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) is a hitman leading a secret life and maintaining two relationships, one with the demanding and demeaning Chantel (Lela Rochon), who does not accept his work, and another with Pam (Christina Applegate), who knows nothing of his job. Melvin is somewhat of a pushover, trying to appease all of Chantel's demands, even her most expensive wishes, as well as rolling over whenever one of his co-workers takes credit for his achievements. Perhaps as a result of his helplessness in asserting himself, throughout the early scenes Melvin is often seen drinking Maalox to relieve a developing ulcer.
Feeling underpaid for their work for mob boss Paris (Avery Brooks), the assassin team of Smiley, Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), Vince (Antonio Sabato Jr.) and Gump (Robin Dunne) take an independent job, kidnapping Keiko Nishi (China Chow), the teenage daughter of local electronics magnate Jiro Nishi (Sab Shimono), for a hefty ransom. Unfortunately, the team does not realize that Nishi has recently gone bankrupt over his failed foray into films and furthermore, their boss Paris is the girl's godfather. Enlisted by the group to hold Keiko, Melvin has to hide the bound and gagged schoolgirl on his property, attempting to keep her presence hidden from Pam and her parents, who are coming for dinner.
Melvin feels sorry for the girl and relieves her from her bondage. In the ensuing hours they build up a rapport preparing dinner together, an act which leads into a love scene reminiscent of the pottery scene from Ghost, but which is cut short when Keiko attempts to escape.
Ordered by Paris to discover the kidnappers of his goddaughter, a panicked Cisco kills Gump, but not before coaxing him into also implicating Melvin for the kidnapping.
A team of assassins crash Melvin's dinner with Pam's family, leading to a shootout during which Melvin realizes Pam was going to break up with him under pressure from her stereotypically Jewish mother (Lainie Kazan). Melvin and Keiko's feelings for each other lead them to form an awkward romance, and she and Melvin attempt to escape from the fiasco, pursued by Cisco. In the chaos, Melvin happens to run into Chantel and finally takes the opportunity to stand up to her and end their relationship.
A fight ensues between Cisco and Melvin, culminating at a video store where the ever-honest Melvin stops to return an overdue tape. Melvin kills Cisco by stabbing him in the chest, but not before Cisco arms an explosive device. Melvin leaves the building and is confronted by Keiko, her father and Paris. He re-enters the building, which explodes.
Paris and Nishi, believing Melvin to be dead, call off the manhunt. Soon Melvin is revealed to have survived, sheltered from the blast by an enormous solid gold film stand-up made for the flop that destroyed Nishi's career. Melvin and Keiko are reunited and ride off together, while Nishi recoups his losses by making a film out of the story of his daughter's kidnapping.Mark Wahlberg as Melvin Smiley
Lou Diamond Phillips as Cisco
Christina Applegate as Pam Shulman
Avery Brooks as Paris
Bokeem Woodbine as Crunch
Antonio Sabato Jr. as Vince
China Chow as Keiko Nishi
Lainie Kazan as Jeanne Shulman
Elliott Gould as Morton Shulman
Sab Shimono as Jiro Nishi
Robin Dunne as Gump
Lela Rochon as Chantel
Danny Smith as Video Store Kid
The Big Hit was shot for the relatively low budget of $13 million and was produced by film partners John Woo, Terence Chang, and Wesley Snipes. Filmed in Richmond Hill, Markham and Toronto in 1996, but it failed to get a North American theatrical release until 1998.
The Big Hit had a mixed reception from critics.
Jack Matthews commented in the Los Angeles Times that "'The Big Hit,' which was brought to Wesley Snipes' production company by Hong Kong legend John Woo, attempts to take the East-West merger even further, and the result is an only fitfully funny comic mongrel."
Remarked Roger Ebert, "I guess you could laugh at this. You would have to be seriously alienated from normal human values and be nursing a deep-seated anger against movies that make you think even a little, but you could laugh."
The New York Times' Lawrence Van Gelder was equally scathing: "If 'The Big Hit' had any valid claim to excellence, rest assured that its release would have been delayed till summer. That, experience shows, is the proper season for movies built on a foundation of lavish crime, carnage, comedy, chases, crashes and chicks. 'The Big Hit' has all these elements, and none are top of the line. The name of John Woo, the talented Hong Kong-school director of the hit 'Face/Off,' is plastered around 'The Big Hit'. But this bait should not deter the eye from the switch: Woo is an executive producer. The director of "The Big Hit" is Che-Kirk Wong, another Hong Kong veteran, making his North American debut. Insatiable moviegoers are advised to wait till this action-comedy, written by Ben Ramsey, thuds into video stores; tasteful moviegoers will avoid it altogether."
And finally, Jeff Vice of the LDS Church-owned Deseret News remarked: "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."
It currently holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film debuted at #1 at the box office. It went on to gross $27 million domestically.