Hit man

Hit man
Original title:Hit man
Director:Richard Linklater
Running time:115 minutes
Release date:07 june 2024
A Houston cop working undercover as a hit man breaks protocol to help a desperate woman trying to escape an abusive boyfriend.

Mulder's Review

Hit Man directed by Richard Linklater is a fascinating exploration of identity and deception, deftly fusing elements of whodunit and romantic comedy. The film takes a unique approach by focusing on a character who plays a hit man rather than being one, a concept that offers a refreshing take on a genre often mired in clichés. This innovative story is loosely based on a 2001 article by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly about Gary Johnson, a professor who collaborates with local police on undercover operations. 

Glen Powell, who co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Linklater, plays Gary, a professor of philosophy and psychology in New Orleans. Gary is an engaging, awkward academic who leads a rather ordinary life. His skills in electronics lead him to assist the police in their surveillance operations. When the usual undercover agent is suspended, Gary finds himself in the role of a hitman for an undercover operation, setting the stage for a story that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging.

This masquerade becomes a psychological playground for Gary, who navigates these operations with a mixture of intellectual curiosity and unexpected charisma. The transformation scenes, in which Gary adopts various disguises, are both amusing and crucial, as they highlight his growing skill at psychological manipulation. When meeting potential clients, Gary instantly revels in the act of deception, thanks to what he describes in an ironic voice-over as a professional fascination with the eternal mystery of human consciousness and behavior. He proves to be a quick study, deftly adapting his hitman persona to win his target's trust. Urging himself to think like a hitman, he masquerades as a killer with devastating efficiency. These scenes are imbued with a casual virtuosity, energized by Powell's concentrated enthusiasm, underscoring the crucial role this experience will soon play in Gary's life. His transformation into an aggressive criminal capable of regaling the mark with elaborate, absurd descriptions of how he's going to dispose of the body astonishes his colleagues, who listen in from a van.

The heart of the film lies in the unexpected romance between Gary and Madison (Adria Arjona). Madison is looking to hire a hitman to kill her abusive husband, but Gary, adopting Ron's suave persona, convinces her otherwise. The chemistry between Powell and Arjona is electric, adding a layer of charm and authenticity to their relationship. Their interactions evolve from a professional façade to a genuine romantic relationship, complicating Gary's double life. As Gary begins to enjoy his part-time undercover work, he is galvanized by the power of psychological manipulation and the awakening of the long-suppressed multitudes within. Studying accents and make-up on YouTube, he applies temporary tattoos, stains his teeth, fabricates fake scars and dons wigs to create distinct personalities - a black-clad Eastern European, a buttoned-up businessman, a folksy skeet shooter - that he believes will loosen suspects' tongues. However, when one sting goes wrong, Gary's life becomes entangled in a web of deceit, with Madison at its center.

Richard Linklater's direction allows Hit Man to be lively and jazzy, in keeping with the film's tone. The film navigates its plot with a balance of humor and tension. Richard Linklater delves into the psychology of deception and identity, exploring how Gary's undercover work begins to influence his real life. Philosophical undertones, particularly discussions of Nietzsche's concepts, add depth to the story. Gary's self-deprecating personality emerges most strongly in the voice-overs, addressed to the audience, in which he discusses the idiosyncrasies of law enforcement, the psychology of his criminal clients, the ins and outs of his academic ruminations, and the peculiarity of his situation: Is he the bait or the prey? This introspective commentary enriches the film, giving viewers a glimpse into Gary's inner conflict and the ethical dilemmas he faces.

Glen Powell delivers a remarkable performance, moving seamlessly from bumbling professor to confident hitman. His performance captures the essence of Gary's internal conflict and his gradual transformation. Adira Arjona matches Glen Powell's performance, bringing a mix of vulnerability and strength to Madison. Their dynamic is responsible for much of the film's emotional resonance, with Madison vigorously expressing the despair of a survivor and the impulsiveness of a romantic adventurer. The supporting cast, including Retta and Sanjay Rao, bring a comic touch that counterbalances the film's darker moments. The witty New Orleans setting reinforces the film's atmosphere, anchoring the story in a vibrant and culturally rich backdrop. This rich setting is complemented by Linklater's use of small punctuations, such as road signs commenting on the action with humor, adding to the film's distinctive personality.

Hit Man is to be commended for its originality and intelligent storytelling. The film's ability to subvert genre expectations makes it a refreshing addition to the crime-comedy and romantic-comedy genres. The film's exploration of identity, coupled with a compelling plot, makes for a captivating film. However, the film is not without its flaws. It rushes through Gary's transformations as an actor and quickly skips over his story, omitting details that would deepen his character. For example, the real Gary Johnson, who died in 2022, was a Vietnam War veteran. In the rush to conclude, the film's denouement falls back on clichés, pushing the takeover of identity by imitation to an absurd, artificial extreme. Yet the moment is also symbolically significant, illuminating the reckless passions that an intense sexual relationship entails and the dangerous vulnerability that a romantic bond implies.

Hit Man is a cleverly crafted film that blends crime, romance and comedy with philosophical reflections on identity. Glen Powell's multi-faceted performance and palpable chemistry with Adria Arjona anchor the film, making it a delightful and thought-provoking experience. With its intelligent script, dynamic direction and engaging characters, Hit Man is a unique and entertaining film. It's a film that doesn't just entertain, but prompts viewers to reflect on the complexities of identity and the roles we play in our own lives.

Hit Man
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Richard Linklater, Glen Powell
Based on Hit Man by Skip Hollandsworth
Produced by Dylan King, Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Jason Bateman, Michael Costigan
Starring Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta
Cinematography : Shane F. Kelly
Edited by Sandra Adair
Music by Graham Reynolds
Production companies : AGC Studios, ShivHans Pictures, Monarch Media, Barnstorm Productions, Aggregate Films, Cinetic Media, Detour Filmproduction
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates : September 5, 2023 (Venice), May 24, 2024 (United States), June 7, 2024 (Netflix)
Running time : 115 minutes[

Viewed on June 7, 2024 (Netflix)

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