Richard Linklater's HIT MAN is a super-sexy, laugh-out-loud comedy that had its London Film Festival audience burst into spontaneous applause mid-way through. This is a film so smart, so brilliantly written and acted, so full of uproarious mischievous joy, that everyone involved deserves accolades and awards.
Linklater and co-writer/lead actor Glen Powell (TOP GUN: MAVERICK) based their script on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth: a formula that worked well for Linklater in his 2011 comedy BERNIE. The film tells the amplified and fictionalised story of a real guy called Gary Johnson who pretended to be a hit man to entrap criminals for the local police.
In this version of Johnson's story, we see Powell's Gary transform from contented but dull psychology professor to cool sexy hit man and discover that he is happier and more confident in his alter-ego of Ron. Problem is, Gary invokes the jealousy of bent cop Jasper (Austin Amelio - The Walking Dead) and this causes even more complications when Jasper figures out that "Ron" has started dating one of his suspects, the glamorous Madison (Adria Arjona) who may or may not be organising a hit on her douchebag husband.
The resulting film is absolutely hilarious, as Powell transforms Gary into a variety of Rons, tailor-made to the fantasy each of his potential clients have of what a hit man would look like. He can be a Russian thug, a Maga Proud Boy, Patrick Bateman or a mop top Scouser. At a more profound level, we are seeing a man with a perfectly respectable life try on other lives for a day. The question this movie asks is whether one can use that experience to truly change. How stable is the self, and why shouldn't we all have the chance to change?
Powell deserves all the credit for his outrageously good lead performance, but I have to say I was blown away by Adria Arjona as his love interest and Austin Amelio as Jasper. This is just an incredibly strong cast, having a blast, taking the audience with them. I loved every second, and wouldn't change a thing. Netflix have acquired the rights but if you can, and they let you, do try and see it at the cinema. This is a film that deserves an audience reaction.
HIT MAN has a running time of 113 minutes. It played Venice, Toronto and London 2023.