Film Review: Hit Man | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 2nd, 2023  

Hit Man

Studio: Netflix
Director: Richard Linklater

Oct 14, 2023 Web Exclusive
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It’s clichéd to use the phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” when referring to films, but when describing Richard Linklater’s new film, Hit Man, it’s accurate. The film has elements–magnetic performances, laugh-out-loud jokes or vintage-like aesthetics–that could date it to any previous decade. The movie was made for 2023, though–it’s the perfect antidote to the endless slew of unfunny, cash-grab comedies we’ve been getting both in theaters and on streaming services.

Set in New Orleans, the film follows Gary Cooper (Glen Powell)–a quirky college psychology professor who lives a simple life, teaching classes, feeding birds and eating with his two cats (aptly named “Id” and “Ego”). In his free time, he works as a technical adviser for the New Orleans Police Department, assisting a three-person team that organizes undercover operations to capture people looking to kill others using a hitman. When his coworker gets suspended from the NOPD, Gary reluctantly assumes the identity of “Ron,” a fake hitman used as bait to lure suspects in.

Seeing his new identity as an escape from his cookie-cutter life, Gary thrives in his new role. As Ron, he wears costumes, tests accents and even increases the team’s number of charges and arrests. Things intensify when he meets Maddy (Adria Arjona), a woman looking to kill her verbally abusive husband. While Gary/Ron talks her out of going through with the act, she asks to see him again, beginning an odd relationship that complicates Gary’s double-lives.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Hit Man is that it wastes no time getting started. Linklater gives less than five minutes of the film’s runtime to explore Greg’s habitual life–one day of his routine is enough for audiences to know that he does this every day. Once the film gets going, it moves quickly, never slowing down to let the emotional beats or plot twists simmer. This method works for the film. At its core, Hit Man’s isn’t a very complicated story. So, it makes sense for Linklater to breeze from one scene to another–he keeps the film lighthearted and loose, even when its stakes rise.

Hit Man is also riotously funny. This may be attributable to its odd premise, likable character and balance of one-liners, but just like the story’s pacing, the jokes’ delivery speed never slows. Some of the humor does feel ripped out of a 2000s comedy. In particular, there’s a classic “they forgot to hang up” sequence when Gary hears his police coworkers discussing how uncool he is behind his back, especially compared to his alternate persona. It’s a showcase of the lengths the film will go to get a laugh; but while the jokes can feel forced, most of the comedy sits well, especially during the film’s tense final act.

The film also works because it has an emotional core. In theory, Hit Man could have easily been a one-joke movie. But, by showcasing Gary’s desire and enjoyment of being Ron, a person he considers much cooler than himself, the film is a surprisingly poignant meditation on our collective desire to be people we consider better than ourselves. And even better, the film never shies away from exploring the complications that arise when we attempt to do so. At some points, the film may hammer at this idea too directly–especially during scenes where Gary gives psychological lectures. The themes work best when they seep into the film’s comedy.

Hit Man also boasts excellent performances, especially from principal actor Powell. It’s hard to keep describing every one of the actor’s performances as a “major star turn,” but this film, a 113-minute display of his endless charisma and infectious charm, may finally get him to that status. He perfectly animates both Gary’s and Ron’s characters, while bringing the comedy to life in an unforgettable way. He and Arjona have great chemistry, making the narrative’s odd turns feel plausible and enjoyable

Author rating: 7/10

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