Friday, May 24, 2024

Hit Man: Movie Review

A devilishly smart crowd-pleaser.
An interesting distinction needs to be made with Hit Man: It’s based on a real person, but it’s not based on a true story. Meaning, the main character and all his various personas and jobs and identities – all true, but the main plot and most of the action of the second half, all fabricated. Writer and director Richard Linklater has spent his career throwing in a few ‘based on a true story’ movies among his humorous and touching movies about the human existence. It's only fitting that Hit Man deftly combines the two.   2024

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Screenplay by: Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Skip Hollandsworth

Starring: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona

Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) is the type of character that would be next to impossible to craft as fictional, too hard to be believable and likely to miss a facet that makes him tick. There are so many different elements to this person all of which are essential to the story. His primary trait which cannot be over-looked is that he’s extremely smart; he’s book smart but can translate that into actual skills.

He teaches a philosophy and psychology class with a little bit of literature mixed in at a university. He’s also single (more on that later) and found he had more idle time than his brain liked, so he taught himself electronics. He got good at crafting hidden microphones, listening devices and cameras and became a part-time contractor with the New Orleans Police Department. This eventually leads to him going under-cover as a hit man. If it’s not clear this movie is hilarious, and for most of the beginning, actually true.

A shy, risk-averse, lacking in self-confidence, lonely university professor goes under cover as a hit man, and he’s good at it. Of course all of his colleagues at the police department (Retta and Sanjay Rao) are shocked that he’s good at it, but if you’re paying attention to who he is as a person and how smart he is, it shouldn’t be surprising at all. His education in psychology, and how much he reads in general, makes him really good at reading people. To be good at his job – convince aspiring criminals that he really is a hit man – all he has to do is figure out what they’re expecting and give them that. His ability to understand himself gives him the ability to modify himself and present somebody else entirely. Usually he’s some combination of a high-confidence, no-nonsense killer for hire, sometimes he’s a far right wing, gun-toting, government-hating redneck, and yes, it’s very disturbing that Glen Powell is equally hot in all of his different personas.

At its core, Hit Man is a romance. Eventually Gary is unprepared for his next aspiring criminal to take off the streets – a young, very pretty woman that he misreads. This is a fun, funny, sexy, entertaining movie. There is a twist - which to be clear is not a twist at all but is in fact just a natural progession of the story - which may come as a surprise even though it really shouldn’t because again it’s exactly where the story would logically be headed. But because this moment was met with a number of audible gasps from the theater audience, it’s a perfect indication of how good this story is – it’s engrossing and still good when you’re just focusing on Gary as a person that you don’t even need a plot (but yes, you still get one).

One scene that stands out is when Gary’s pregnant ex comes to visit him at school for lunch. Alicia (Molly Bernard) doesn’t come for any specific reason just that they remained friends and they like chatting about philosophy and psychology but in just one scene, they illuminate exactly what their relationship was like and from both points of view and setting us up for who Gary might seek out in a future romantic partner, very Linklater-esque.

The movie as a whole does bear some resemblance to Bernie, but not as dark, much funnier, and a more mainstream entertaining action rom-com.