Hit Man review: Glen Powell delivers a star-making performance in Richard Linklater's wicked crime caper | Hollywood - Hindustan Times

Hit Man review: Glen Powell delivers a star-making performance in Richard Linklater's wicked crime caper

Jun 08, 2024 06:08 AM IST

Hit Man, directed by Richard Linklater, finds the alluring spot between comedy and noir, boosted with a charismatic turn from actor Glen Powell.

If Anyone But You gave any indication about what a guy named Glen Powell can do, then let Hit Man be that ultimate answer to settle that once and for all. The actor gives a riotous, star-making performance in Richard Linklater's new killer comedy. Our leading man is a professor teaching Nietzsche during the day when we first meet him, and in the next few moments, he moonlights as a fake hitman for hire, working for the New Orleans Work Department. From Gary Johnson to Ron, and a hundred new characters in between that keep him going, Powell powers through this film, which is in turns nihilistic and unbelievably fun. To top it off, it is also based (almost) on a true story! (Also read: Glen Powell on challenges he has faced as a writer: Hollywood is not a meritocracy)

Glen Powell and Adria Arjona in a still from Hit Man.
Glen Powell and Adria Arjona in a still from Hit Man.

Gary is plain and simple, teaching philosophy at the University of New Orleans, and coming home to his cats Id and Ego. He is that person who is okay being called boring. His part time gig with the police department gets promotion when the undercover hitman in place, named Jasper (Austin Amelio), goes missing and is inevitable suspended for a case of police brutality. So Gary has to turn in as the hitman for hire for the people who would want to recruit him for the dirty job. Powell, who also shares screenwriting credits with Linklater, seems to have a ball in these early scenes where our new hitman for hire goes into full research to play a part. He constructs a different identity for each new case, and plays the fantasy of a hitman that would be the best suited for a client.

The stakes of this truly implausible premise take a complicated turn when he meets the beautiful but terrified Madison (Adria Arjona), who wants to hire him to kill her husband. She's so preyed upon that she can barely eat the pie on the table without apologizing. Her husband has ķept her on this diet, she says. He lets her go, taken in by her naked honesty. This flip in the regular course of his life pushes the mood into uncharted territory.

Hit Man is a strange and unnerving film, one that integrates from a goofy comedy to a sly romantic thriller to a full-blown shot at the dark. Linklater matches the momentum of the film's central character, and keeps on implying change while keeping the implications off-camera. The anticipation is somehow dragged on after a point in the second half, even as the existential core of the film makes its way to the front. The editing work by Sandra Adair is the real winner, along with the elegant production design by Bruce Curtis. The second half of the film comes dangerously close to breaking point, but the editor-director pair find an uncompromising sort of balance between the thrill and the danger.

However, it is the thinly written character of the main female protagonist that softens the overall bite of Hit Man. Arjona's Madison is forever hot and sexy, but also scared and unbelievably naive. The last moment interplay of shock does not add up because the character does not have a scope of her own in this film. Who is Madison when Ron is not in the house? Who is she hiding from? We might just never know. It helps that Arjona and Powell have electric chemistry together, which somehow makes up for these frustrating inconsistencies.

Hit Man is playful and surprisingly profound, and one of the strangest romantic comedies to come out in some time. One moment you are having fun, and the next moment it is just a shock out of the blue. This is Linklater still taking risks, flying without a necessary take-off in mind. You will either land or miss it all. There's no in-between.

Hit Man released on Netflix on June 7.

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