Richard Linklater never fails and, more amazingly, continues to surprise. Even as he traverses genres, he always nails the core relationships. At the same time, he understands that romantic love brings us together and makes us make the most absurd choices possible. A riff on the ever-popular Hitman film, his latest film Hit Man takes it in an even more comedic, if less absurd direction, than shows like Barry.
In Hit Man, Gary Johnson is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life. He lives by himself with his two cats and teaches classes in philosophy and psychology at the local university. His students find him bland and no one else is really interested in who he is.
That is until he decides to start helping out the New Orleans police department with technical tasks behind the scenes.
Soon, he finds himself part of an undercover team working audio on the wires that police wear. But, as they start a sting operation to catch people commissioning the services of a Hitman, their lead detective is suspended with pay for violent incidents. In a last-second operation, they send the deputized Gary to go play the “Hit Man” but, surprisingly, he oozes more charisma and charm than the team ever thought he’d be able to pull off. As he keeps doing it, he keeps getting more better and better in the role. Then, one day, Gary encounters Madison, a woman desperate to get out of a controlling and abusive marriage. Gary allows her to get away but their chance encounters keep them connected in ways that will send him on a journey of self-discovery and see if the can be more than just the ordinary man that he always knew.
The film’s strengths lie in the perfect chemistry. The writing chemistry of Linklater and Glen Powell came up with a hilarious script that is concise and well paced. It never overstays its welcome, even if it results in an easy ending. Their script works perfectly for Linklater’s unserious direction that comes with narration, spinning edits, and a very upbeat score. All of the film is shot in a standard way but it’s done precisely to highlight Powell’s performance and his chemistry with Adria Arjona as Madison. The two of them give stunning performances with Powell showing that he is very worthy to take on the mantle of becoming the next star in a Hollywood legacy of charismatic and complicated leading men. Hit Man provides everything Linklater is strong at: compelling writing, some naturally entertaining actors, and a story that puts a new spin on stories you thought you already knew. A true winner!
Hit Man is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.