HIT MAN – Review by Serena Seghedoni

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Waking Life director Richard Linklater continues his incredibly successful festival run and brings the feel-good film of the year to the BFI London Film Festival. Hit Man is a hilarious, enthralling watch from start to end – a film that will have your attention from the very start and keep your eyes glued to the screen for its entire duration, as you get more and more familiar with one of the most compelling characters you’ll see in a movie this year.

Hit Man’s protagonist is Gary Johnson (Glen Powell, also on co-writing duties), an extremely ordinary psychology and philosophy university professor whom you’d barely notice if you passed him on the street. But Gary has a side job, as he collaborates with the New Orleans Police in his spare time, helping them catch prospective offenders. And, when we first meet him, he’s just been promoted from “man in the van” to “contract killer.” In other words, his new role requires him to meet with ordinary people looking to hire a hit man and get their requests on tape, so that the cops can arrest them.

But if Gary seems like an unlikely choice for the job, with his ordinary looks and extremely uninteresting personality, he soon proves everyone wrong, as he turns out to be a natural. His method? Assuming a different persona for each “client,” based on what would make them trust him the most.

“What if your ‘self’ is a construction — the role you’ve been playing every day?,” he asks his students in class, explaining that all of us have an ID — the most instinctive, desire-driven part of our mind, a Superego — the moral code we adhere to, which makes up the most rational side of ourselves, and an Ego — the combination of the two, which makes each of us a unique human being. But what if the ID and the Superego were completely separate from one another, never coalescing into a fully-fledged whole?

When Gary meets Madison (Adria Arjona), a client who’s trying to hire him to escape from her abusive husband, he presents himself to her as the charming Roy, a smooth-talking, confident man that exudes charm, so much so that even his colleagues can’t help but find him irresistible. Gary breaks protocol and saves her, urging her to flee her husband, but he ends up complicating things, as Madison and Gary — or, rather, “Roy” — fall for one another. For a while, our professor-turned-hit man is able to keep his two personas separate, but he soon begins to turn into Roy, changing his personality completely and complicating things even more, as more and more variables come into the equation, leading to a series of hilarious twists and coincidences that will have you laughing and clapping in delight.

It’s not easy to craft effective comedies, and writers Linklater, Powell, and Skip Hollandsworth absolutely nail that formula, with a flawlessly paced screenplay that keeps on entertaining till the very end, placing us right there with the film’s protagonist and making us yearn for even more time with him when the credits roll.

But there’s also a fascinating message about identity, social conventions, and morality in Linklater’s movie. Hit Man absolutely gets us thinking about the way we present ourselves to the world, and ultimately sees us ask the most important question of all: who are we, really? If we’ve spent our entire life trying to “seize the identity we wanted for ourselves,” are we still us, deep down, or have we become the version of us we’ve been projecting to society? And if our new alter ego has a different idea of right and wrong than the set of rules we were born into, which moral code should we adhere to? Which version is the real us? And does that even matter, in the end?

Hit Man perfectly blends comedy and wit to deliver an incredibly fun ride that you could watch over and over again. Glen Powell is flawless in a career-defining turn that sees him interpret a ton of different roles with perfect comedic timing. Adria Arjona is just as good as Madison, a character we only get to know at the very end, and Austin Amelio is also a standout as Gary/Ray’s colleague Jasper, who could have just come out of a Coen Brothers movie. And technically speaking, the film is fantastic too, with the setting of New Orleans acting as the perfect backdrop for this “mostly true story,” and Graham Reynolds’ jazzy score and Shane F. Kelly’s cinematography immersing us into its atmosphere at all times.

Hit Man is only deceptively simple, as it’s not an easy task to devise and pull off a film that works so well. It feels like the movie Linklater was meant to make, and it’s going to become so many people’s go-to film in the years to come. It will entertain you, it will fascinate you, and it will ultimately have you thinking: “What would Roy do?”.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Serena Seghedoni (Archived contributor)

Serena Seghedoni is a film critic, a film studies graduate, and the Editor-in-Chief at Loud and Clear Reviews. She has written a dissertation on Joker and is currently interested in queer stories, films made by women, virtual reality, and the representation of mental health in film and TV.