To grass, in British underworld parlance, means to inform on others to the police. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it derives from the word “grasshopper,” Cockney rhyming slang for copper. The term has been around in Britain awhile, since the 1930's. In the 1970's, British journalists invented a new word, “supergrass,” to label an informer whose information implicates a large number of people involved in criminal activity. In London at the time, a number of mass trials saw supergrasses testify against former associates, gaining reduced sentences or outright immunity for themselves. Willie Parker, the Terence Stamp character in The Hit, released in 1984, is precisely this type of informer, and in an early scene in the film we see him standing in court, dressed in a suit, as he blithely turns state's evidence against a number of his old confederates. Seated in the dock as he details their crimes, they glare at him with murder in their eyes. When his testimony finishes, as he's led away by the court officers, the criminals break out together in song: “We'll all meet again. Don't know where, don't know when...” The viewer can’t help but chuckle (singing like this occurred at an actual London trial during the period), but we know that somebody from this pack of villains will be trying at a later date to even the score with Willie.
Cut to a flat, sunny landscape with bleach-white buildings, the southern coast of Spain. It's the Costa del Sol, or as the Brits call it, the Costa del Crime. Since the late 70’s, the area has been a popular haven for British criminals looking to escape pressure back home. In the welcoming Mediterranean climate, they settle in and live a comfortable life. Tensions between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar have resulted in lax extradition enforcement, and the criminals have traditionally blended in with the already large British expat community there. It’s the same region where Sexy Beast (2000) opens, with Ray Winstone’s retired English robber lounging poolside at his villa. But even if the authorities don’t come for you, people from your past life will. Just as the peace of Ray Winstone’s exile is destroyed by a former confederate determined to pull him back to London for another job, Terence Stamp’s Willie Parker can’t maintain his distance from his old world forever. Snatched from his book-lined home by four Spanish thugs, he winds up stuffed into a car with an older quiet professional killer named Braddock (John Hurt) and his young eager assistant Myron (Tim Roth).
Their instructions are simple: drive Parker across Spain and over to Paris, France. The head mobster he betrayed years ago is now out of prison and living in Paris, and once they reach their destination, the boss will have Parker executed.