Hit Man Movie Review: An irresistible dark romantic comedy with the most charming duo in Glen Powell and Adria Arjona

Hit Man Movie Review: An irresistible dark romantic comedy with the most charming duo in Glen Powell and Adria Arjona

Linklater and Powell come up with a dark romantic comedy for the ages, with the latter donning many hats as he goes about his ever-so-riveting central role
Hit Man(3.5 / 5)

Richard Linklater’s latest is based on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth. Loosely depicting the life of Gary Johnson, professor and part-time undercover agent for the New Orleans Police, Hit Man is one hell of a ride. It’s hard to categorise it strictly as a romantic comedy even though the primary elements belong to these two subgenres. Darkly funny, with mock thriller bits that are laced with so much humour that they aren’t easy to predict, the film is a breath of fresh air. The resultant experience is somewhat like a romance-infused Cohen brothers’ screenplay. There’s the noir, there’s the self-deprecating awareness, there’s the black comedy – all that it needs is some romantic notes thrown in. While Hit Man works on multiple levels, it is the ever so charming manner of Glen Powell that makes the film. His good looks may be distracting, but it is the way in which he manages to balance the personas he portrays that is the most impressive of all.

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Molly Bernard, Evan Holtzman

Streaming On: Netflix

At the heart of the film is Gary Johnson, an unassuming college philosophy professor passionate about imparting his vast bookish knowledge. He blends in without drawing much attention to himself. He drives a Civic, lives alone and has two cats. Gary might talk about Nietzsche and how one must live life at the edge, to take risks for a fulfilling existence, but one thing is beyond reproach – he isn’t an embodiment of that principle. Here’s where things get interesting. Gary’s side hustle is to provide undercover tech support for the New Orleans Police Department. One day, out of the blue, he gets told by his colleagues Claudette (Retta) and Phil (Sanjay Rao) that Jasper (Austin Amelio), the cop they work with on operations/stakeouts, has been suspended. A shaking Gary is put on the spot and has to fill in as a fake hit man, getting potential criminals looking to snuff out lives via proxy to admit to their guilt. A complex system is set up for the client to meet Gary (who will employ an alias) at some nondescript coffee shop, hand over the cash, and let him know in no uncertain terms that they wish to go through with the proposition. The money exchanging hands and the willingness to see the deed to its conclusion (of getting the hit man to do their bidding) is paramount for an arrest. Gary wears a wire and walks in oozing nervous energy. As soon as he sits down, though, Ron (his assumed identity), takes over. Claudette, Phil and a reluctant Jasper tell him to go in there and be aggressive, setting the tone for the awkward conversation to follow. With Jasper being side-lined, Gary transitions into the confident yet made-up character he’d never otherwise have a chance to play.

Hit Man’s screenplay is exceptional. It engages in a fun and unpredictable way without ever going cold on the humour. Another feather in Powell’s cap, as he serves as co-writer. One of the many highlights of the film is how Gary/Ron and Madison (Adria Arjona) are pitted against each other. Madison is entranced by Ron, who in turn goes to great lengths to talk her out of ruining her life (she wants her abusive husband put away). There’s a magnetism between the two that makes it near impossible to look away. Don’t be fooled by her puppy dog eyes and endearing manner, she harbours some danger in that ticker of hers. She is drawn to Ron’s lifestyle and is always at it with the questions. They eventually strike a deal never to ask about the other’s life outside of their sexy liaison (for their mutual protection). But that’s the thing, Gary isn’t Ron. The latter is just an extension of his fantasy…a man he’d perhaps like to be in real life (personality wise, that is). Back at college, the lines between make-believe and reality begin blurring, with understated philosophy Professor Gary Johnson morphing into charming, confident Ron in his lectures.

In addition to Powell and Arjona’s hot chemistry, it is the supporting characters that get a great look in. Claudette and Phil complement one another’s comedic energy exceedingly well. Their comments on Ron’s general demeanour are hilarious to watch, as they listen in from the surveillance van. The chat about their eagerness to have sex with the persona, is especially funnyAustin Amelio, who plays Jasper, embodies the perfectly annoying and disgruntled co-worker who will go far and wide to get his back on the newly anointed blue-eyed boy, the one who replaced him, no less. Through all his petty scheming to expose Gary, you can’t take your eyes off Jasper. He is so very good.

Linklater and Powell come up with a dark romantic comedy for the ages. Powell is fabulous in the lead, donning many hats as he goes about his business. Matching his charm frame for frame is the lovely Adria Arjona. Hit Man is a film that is hard to resist on myriad fronts. You’re never really sure of its true intention, but wherever it’s going, you’ll be more than happy to tag along.

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