Richard Linklater’s Hit Man stands out among the vast array of films at TIFF 2023 as a novel fusion of humour, action, and philosophical reflections. The movie is an entertaining journey that defies simple classification. Exploring the life of the fake hitman Gary Johnson, the film brings some solid performances and even more narrative twists to make it something truly special.
The film’s plot is loosely based on a real-life figure, a Texan shapeshifter who led a life so extraordinary that it almost defies belief. Linklater and co-writer Glen Powell take this incredible story and add layers of nuance and humour. Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) is not just a man leading a double life; he’s a man in search of meaning, grappling with existential questions that are cleverly woven into the film’s narrative. Hit Man even uses recurring sight gags involving street signs posing existential questions, a touch that adds a layer of whimsy to the story.
Gary’s undercover work for the NOPD involves elaborate sting operations where he poses as a hitman to entrap would-be criminals. Each operation is a performance, and Gary meticulously crafts personas for each target. From a red-wigged Englishman to a leather-jacketed Russian, Gary’s transformations are far from his everyday attire of baggy denim shorts and button-up shirt. In these moments, the film delves into the nature of identity, a theme that resonates throughout the narrative.
“It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from asking big questions while delivering big laughs and thrills.”
The chemistry between Glen Powell and Adria Arjona, who plays Madison, a woman looking to hire a hitman, is electric. Their interactions are charged with a rare, easy sexuality and playful dialogue that harkens back to classic noir films. Madison is not just a foil for Gary; she’s a complex character with her own motivations and secrets. Their relationship adds depth to the film, making it more than just a comedy or action flick.
Linklater’s direction is assured, capturing the essence of New Orleans and its vibrant culture. The film’s pacing is kept tight by editor Sandra Adair, ensuring the narrative doesn’t lose its way despite its many twists and turns. The supporting cast, particularly Retta as NOPD sting supervisor Claudette, adds another layer of richness to the film. Everyone brings their A-game to the roles, producing a movie that exudes talent even in the most mundane scenes.
Hit Man is a film that juggles multiple genres and themes with nuance and skill. It’s a comedy but also a thoughtful exploration of identity and the roles we play in life. It’s an action film, but it’s also a character study that delves into the complexities of human behaviour. The film is a testament to Linklater’s versatility as a director, effortlessly blending high-concept storytelling with moments of profound insight.
“Richard Linklater’s Hit Man stands out among the vast array of films at TIFF 2023 as a novel fusion of humour, action, and philosophical reflections.”
In a time when the local cinema is crowded with CGI-filled sequels or spin-offs, Hit Man is a breath of fresh air that I could not look away from. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from asking big questions while delivering big laughs and thrills. Whether you’re a fan of Linklater’s more experimental works like Boyhood and Before Sunrise, or you prefer his more mainstream offerings like School of Rock, Hit Man offers something for everyone. It’s a film that once again proves that Richard Linklater is a director who can do it all, making Hit Man a must-see at this year’s TIFF.