L Movie Review 2Richard Linklater hits an almost impossible target in his new movie, Hit Man. Blessed with incredible virtues, including a clever script, crackling dialogue and a wonderful style, he’s done what so few directors can, throwing seemingly random elements on screen and having them all mesh together seamlessly. Combining action, romance, comedy and philosophy into a story is like trying to snipe a moving target from a mile away — Linklater has done it. And the result is one of the most engaging films of the year.

Action and comedy may not seem like vibes that would mesh together, and if you’ve seen franchises like The Expendables, you know they can be a disastrous combo. But when you consider Linklater’s oeuvre, classics like Before Sunrise and Dazed and Confused, those films were able to blend different tones to create original visions, a high-wire act not many directors have been able to pull off. A high school comedy about teenagers getting stoned that’s high-minded intellectually? A romance about singles finding connection that doesn’t end with them being together? Who else is making movies like that? No seriously, we want to know so we can watch more films like them.

Hit Man is the kind of lighthearted spectacle we don’t seem to get anymore — a blockbuster that just wants to be a fun experience, nothing more. When we meet Gary (Glen Powell), a teacher who dabbles as an undercover agent for the police, we are immediately invested because Linklater doesn’t try to make him anything other than what he is. He’s just a dude, disguised as a dude, playing another dude. Gary is sent into the field as an assassin, a role he manages to pull off despite his nerdy reputation, which is a shock to just about everyone on screen. Soon, he’s the department’s “hit man,” changing his image based on what kind of murder is required, from redneck gunslingers to gonzo serial killers. Powell shows a range very few actors get to display on film. 

A great deal of joy comes from watching Powell shift from disguise to disguise, often within the same scene. He’s a one-man show for much of the film, but then, of course, comes the female model. A feisty babe with an abusive husband, Maddy (Adria Arjona) sends Gary spinning when he meets her for a business meeting that turns into a date. Alcohol shots lead to gunshots, and before you know it, Gary’s life as a crime fighter gets a whole lot more complicated with the introduction of love, emotion and jaw-dropping reveals. His boundary between fact and fiction gets lost in a whirlwind of conspiracy.

The impressive Hit Man races through a flurry of plot twists at a breakneck pace. And while it’s enjoyable to be sure, it takes on a serious quality as well, anchored by Gary’s questioning of self-worth, identity and who is the real Gary — the nerdy philosophy professor or the action hero he plays to nab criminals? 

That’s what makes Linklater so special. He’s not only able to orchestrate extremely entertaining pictures — movies we can watch with our friends on a Friday night — but he’s able to speak to the human experience as well. We often embody the persona we think others want us to be, whether that’s a face of makeup or a hobby like acting. Humans inherently seek the approval of others and themselves. Gary just wants to be his own version of cool, and if that means murdering people along the way, so be it. He’s the face of this radiantly funny, ridiculously layered picture, but we all know Linklater is the man behind the mask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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