Hit Man (2024, dir. Richard Linklater) – Second Helping

by | Jun 4, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 115 mins

UK Distributor: Netflix

UK Release Date: 7 June 2024

WHO’S IN HIT MAN?

Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Evan Holtzman, Molly Bernard, Mike Markoff

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Richard Linklater (director, writer, producer), Glen Powell (writer, producer), Jason Bateman, Mike Blizzard and Michael Costigan (producers), Graham Reynolds (composer), Shane F. Kelly (cinematographer), Sandra Adair (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A lowly professor (Powell) is hired to go undercover as an assassin…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON HIT MAN?

Ever since Netflix purchased distribution rights to director and co-writer Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, everyone who had already seen it (including myself, at last year’s BFI London Film Festival) immediately died a little inside. That’s because, more often than not, the streamer’s output of in-house original features tends to slip under the radar upon release, usually due to a lack of wider promotion, and are doomed to spend eternity being one of infinite choices on their recommendation scroll, regardless of their actual quality.

A certified crowd-pleaser like Hit Man does not deserve that kind of treatment. This is a film that, at my screening last autumn in an auditorium full of fellow critics and professional journalists, inspired waves of cheers and applause DURING the film and not after, along with consistent loud laughter and even some “oooohs” every now and then. It is a movie naturally designed to be seen with large crowds in a packed cinema – and the prospect of it not reaching said crowds, with most of them staying at home and watching it on Netflix instead, is quite daunting.

So, consider this Second Helping review for Hit Man – which is still just as euphoric a watch as it was more than half a year ago – a passionate plea to you, dear reader, to try and seek it out on the big screen with a packed house wherever you can. Or, if that’s sadly not an option, gather a bunch of people in front of your TV and enjoy the shared experience. Whatever your preferred method, just see the damn movie. It really is that good, and easily one of the year’s best films.

Before I explain a bit more as to why Hit Man is worth seeking out, I’d like to draw your attention to the latest episode of the Film Feeder podcast, where I and special guest Mathew Buck – who was also there at that BFI London Film Festival screening – discuss this film at length, and in great non-spoilery detail!

Watch it below (or on YouTube), and listen to it here, as well as your favourite audio platform!

In the film, Glen Powell – who also co-wrote the script with Linklater, in addition to producing – plays Gary Johnson, a philosophy professor in New Orleans who lives a meek and unremarkable life, even when he occasionally assists the local police department with certain sting operations. One day, he is called up to pose as a fake contract killer – after the original poser, unpleasant cop Jasper (Austin Amelio), is suspended from the force – and to everyone’s surprise, including his own, Gary is a tour de force in the improvised role. Thus begins a regular series of Gary donning various other assassin personas to incriminate his potential clients, all of which are explicitly tailored to their fantasy of what a hit man may be. Things get tricky, though, when he meets Madison (Adria Arjona). She initially approaches “Ron” to have her abusive husband Ray (Evan Holtzman) bumped off, but when they form an immediate connection, he saves her from entrapment and ends up pursuing a passionate, deeply intimate romance with her.

This is where the film, which is based very loosely on Skip Hollandsworth’s magazine article about the real-life Gary Johnson, veers far from fact and into pure genre fantasy, but it is also where Hit Man is perhaps at its most crowd-pleasing. The chemistry between both Glen Powell and Adria Arjona is stratospheric, with both actors firing on all cylinders with their combined charm, charisma, and indeed sexiness as they explore their instant spark in ways that always have you rooting for them, even when they’re faced with some pretty heavy situations. Theirs is a classic Linklater pairing in the same way that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy worked so well together in the Before trilogy, and the filmmaker is at his most energetic and sensual when he’s focusing on their intimate and sometimes erotic union, culminating in a climax that you simply can’t help but applaud during.

In my previous review, I mentioned how Hit Man is a true star-making vehicle for Glen Powell, especially after hits like Top Gun: Maverick and Anyone But You solidified his ability to light up the screen like classic movie stars before him, and that’s still very much the case upon this second viewing. Powell, who goes as far back with Linklater as the director’s 2006 satire Fast Food Nation, is a revelation as he easily slips into each distinct and often hilarious hit man persona with impeccable ease, not too dissimilar to how Peter Sellers would often shift from one character to the next in his own comedic outings. Here, though, the actor approaches his multi-faceted part with a radiant screen presence that compliments the rather thoughtful and fascinating themes of identity and deception in his and Linklater’s script, with sections dedicated to exploring the philosophy of transforming one’s self into a projected ego that exceeds the one we’ve been given. Rather than playing them up for laughs, Linklater and Powell treat these themes with a real sense of dignity without talking down to the audience, which in itself contributes to their overall investment in a film that is genuinely more than its handsome co-stars and steamy romantic plot.

There is so much more to say about Hit Man that I simply cannot cover in this review, so once again please do check out the Film Feeder podcast episode above, where you can watch/listen to even more of my and Mathew’s thoughts.

But hopefully, by now you should be convinced that this is not just another Netflix movie, destined for the endless scroll for all of eternity: it is a fun, romantic, hilarious, smart and exceptionally entertaining ride that you need to give as much attention to as possible, preferably on the big screen wherever possible.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Hit Man is an absolutely fantastic crowd-pleaser that sees director and co-writer Richard Linklater craft a smart, funny and romantic thrill ride with plenty of passion and charisma from Glen Powell and Adria Arjona, which alone deserves a viewing on the biggest screen possible.

Five out of five stars

JustWatch


JustWatch

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