TIFF REVIEW – ‘Hit Man’ is slick, smart, and entertaining

A slick, smart, and hugely entertaining entry into the crime-comedy genre, Hit Man deftly demonstrates Richard Linklater’s unique ability to blend humour, tension, and deep character studies into a thoroughly enjoyable film. Loosely based on true events, this sharp caper follows the intriguing life of Gary Johnson, an undercover cop who becomes deeply enmeshed in the lives of those he’s supposed to be surveilling. With a witty script, sharp direction, and standout performances, Hit Man delivers an engaging and unexpectedly poignant cinematic experience.

Rising star Glen Powell stars as Johnson, a philosophy professor turned undercover cop who takes on the role of a hitman to trap criminals in sting operations. Powell is utterly magnetic in the lead role. His portrayal of Johnson is nuanced and multifaceted, blending the character’s intellectual curiosity with a natural charm and a growing moral complexity. Powell’s comedic timing is impeccable, and he brings a sense of authenticity and relatability to the character, making Johnson’s journey both believable and compelling.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is its ability to balance humour and suspense. Linklater’s direction ensures that the film’s tone remains consistent, seamlessly transitioning between moments of laugh-out-loud comedy and edge-of-your-seat tension. The dialogue is sharp and witty, infused with Linklater’s signature conversational style. This approach keeps the narrative lively and engaging, allowing the characters to shine and the story to unfold naturally.

The supporting cast of Hit Man is equally impressive. The luminous Adria Arjona plays Madison, a woman who becomes entangled in Gary’s world in unexpected ways. Arjona delivers a standout performance, bringing depth and complexity to her character. Her chemistry with Powell is palpable, adding an emotional layer to the film that enhances its overall impact. Their interactions are filled with genuine warmth and plenty of sexual tension, driving the film’s narrative forward and providing a compelling counterpoint to the comedic and dramatic elements.

The film’s narrative structure is cleverly constructed, allowing for a series of vignettes that showcase Gary’s various undercover escapades while gradually building towards a more substantial and emotionally resonant conclusion. This episodic approach keeps the audience engaged, as each new assignment brings with it unique challenges and colourful characters. Linklater’s skilful storytelling ensures that these episodes are not just entertaining but also serve to deepen our understanding of Gary’s character and his evolving moral compass.

As Gary delves deeper into his role as a hitman, he is forced to confront the moral ambiguities of his actions and the impact they have on both himself and those around him. This internal struggle is portrayed with sensitivity and depth, making Gary a deeply relatable and sympathetic character. The film does not shy away from examining the consequences of his choices, adding a layer of gravitas to the otherwise light-hearted narrative.

The screenplay, co-written by Linklater and Powell, is a masterclass in character development and dialogue. The characters are well-drawn and multidimensional, each contributing to the film’s rich tapestry of stories. The dialogue is crisp and engaging, filled with the kind of naturalistic exchanges that Linklater is known for. This attention to detail in the writing ensures that the film’s humour feels organic and the emotional beats resonate deeply.

Hit Man also benefits from a memorable and eclectic soundtrack, featuring a mix of classic rock, jazz, and contemporary tracks that enhance the film’s mood and energy. The music is expertly integrated into the narrative, underscoring key moments and adding an additional layer of enjoyment to the film. The soundtrack, combined with the film’s sharp editing, ensures that Hit Man is as much a sensory experience as it is a narrative one.

Powell’s standout performance, combined with a stellar supporting cast, sharp writing, and dynamic direction, makes for a film that is as funny as it is suspenseful. The film’s exploration of ethical dilemmas, coupled with its clever narrative structure and engaging visual style, ensures that Hit Man is a memorable and impactful addition to the crime-comedy genre. It’s a film that will leave audiences both entertained and contemplative, a testament to Linklater’s skill as a filmmaker and storyteller.

Distributor: Netflix
Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Molly Bernard, Evan Holtzman
Director: Richard Linklater
Producers: Mike Blizzard, Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Jason Bateman, Michael Costigan
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Glen Powell
Cinematography: Shane F. Kelly
Production Design: Bruce Curtis
Costume Design: Julianna Hoffpauir
Music: Graham Reynolds
Editor: Sandra Adair
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date: TBC

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