Richard Linklater’s new film Hit Man is an intelligent rom-com that mostly works right up until the very last. Here we meet Philosophy professor, and part-time decoy hitman Gary (Glen Powell). His side gig is helping the police of Austin to snare people hiring hitmen to kill a target. The problem arises when Gary becomes too involved with a former suspect and too in love with one of his personas. Falling more in line with Linklater’s Bernie than the sprawling Boyhood, this frothy film is more concerned with hilarity and romance than anything. It’s good, it’s watchable, enjoyable even, yet something falls painfully short.
We meet Gary as he teaches, leads his boring life as a single man in Texas, and then heads off to his other job, helping the police to capture paying hitmen. After his corker gets put on leave, Gary is asked to step in and be the guy who gets the suspect to say the words and pay the money to validate an arrest. Gary discovers a remarkable talent for assuming identities and he is able to stop an impressive amount of murders. That is, until he meets Maddy (Adria Arjona). She wants her abusive husband killed but, as one of his characters, in character, Gary talks her out of it. That would be fine except Gary’s persona and Gary himself, have fallen for Maddy. Then Maddy’s abusive ex turns up dead. Ooops!
Hit Man is, admittedly, a clever piece of work. Based on the 2001 Texas Monthly magazine article by Skip Hollandsworth, It aims for fizzy verve rather than something akin to a true crime caper. That’s fine, that’s what we are here for. Linklater with co-writer and star Powell craft an intelligent script that toys with philosophical ideas and theories regarding the ID and superego while dressing the window with familiar comedic tropes. Admittedly Hit Man is bristling with originality and uncompromising plot integrity, but then something turns. Linklater and Powell paint themselves into a corner and very delicately futz with the moral compass to resolve things.
Powell is phenomenal as the nebbish professor with a penchant for police work. The collection of characters that he uses to snare potential murderers is hilarious, recalling the best moments of American Dad’s Roger. That’s not t mention his contribution to the script. I would also say that this is a breakout role for Arjona with her spicy performance as Maddy. She brings Selma Hayek energy to what could have been an arm candy role. She matches Powell’s energy and comic timing with energy that gives her a magnetic screen presence.
Crucial last-moment developments aside, Hit Man is a spunky crowd-pleaser of a movie. Linklater and crew should be proud of this sassy little bit of work that is sure to entertain the less critical.
Hit Man Review Score – 7/10