« Hayao's Moving Castle | Main | The Persistence of Documentary »


Brian Roedel/Netflix

Hit Man (2024)

In all my years of moviegoing I have never seen anything like “Hit Man.” I remember the choked surprise echoing around the cinema on sight of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s arse in “Entrapment.” Once a douche-bro military guy reduced himself to tears describing Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves” to me. I’ve seen people hump publicity photos torn from magazines or write love notes to themselves from an actor to hang on their walls. The only other time I’ve experienced a cinema audience clapping a movie scene was for Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls,” but even that was nothing like this. Within “Hit Man” there’s a sequence where Glen Powell is so hot that the audience spontaneously burst into applause. We actually clapped because of how sexually attractive this man is. And we clapped after a scene – keeping in mind Mr. Powell cowrote and coproduced “Hit Man” with director Richard Linklater – in which two of his colleagues (Sanjay Rao and Retta) discussed how badly they want to fuck him. And – I cannot believe I am saying this because of how inappropriate it makes this review sound, but I also cannot tell a lie – even that fails to convey just how unbelievably attractive Mr. Powell is in this movie.

“Glen Powell?” asked a colleague when I explained this to her. She looked him up on her phone and said, “But he has a forgettable face.” And I said, “Exactly.” In “Hit Man” he plays Gary Johnson, a philosophy professor/cat person/birder (and if that isn’t the perfect dork trifecta, please know the cats are named Ego and Id) who has a sideline making recording devices for the police department in New Orleans (where the thematically aligned though not remotely similar “The Killer,” which also showed at the London Film Festival, is partially set). Thanks to the unprofessionalism of a colleague, Jasper (Austin Amelio, making one hell of an impression), Gary must unexpectedly pose as a hit man for a guy who wants to arrange a contract killing. Gary is so unprepared he is wearing a beige polo shirt and jorts. Jorts! But he walks into that restaurant and uses his knowledge of philosophy and human nature to get the guy to incriminate himself on tape. And suddenly Gary isn’t quite so forgettable after all.

After that unexpected success, Gary discovers a talent for disguising himself as a the ideal hit man for a parade of sleazy, desperate or spiteful contacts, allowing Mr. Powell to have a great time impersonating a parade of Hollywood psychopaths (his takedowns of Gary Oldman and Christian Bale are especially hilarious). But one afternoon he goes, as a guy in a suede jacket named Ron, to see a nervous woman named Madison (Adria Arjona). It’s quickly clear she’s in an abusive marriage but even more obvious that “Ron” and she can’t stop flirting, to the point that Madison temporarily forgets why they are there. “Ron” breaks all protocol and advises Madison on other ways to get out of her marriage, preventing her from being arrested. Gary then leaves common sense behind when he – that is, “Ron” – agrees to meet Madison at a puppy adoption event in a park. One thing leads to another, the guy whose ex-wife (Molly Bernard) said he wasn’t capable of passion fucks Madison’s brains out; and suddenly we are in the middle of a dilemma. Madison is having a red-hot affair with a man she thinks is a hired killer; “Ron” is lying about his identity and risking his career and his freedom for every stolen moment with her; and they are so perfect together the audience is unquestionably on their side. The bad decisions start coming, with Jasper in the middle of most of them, but the audience is unquestionably on their side.

This is Mr. Powell’s movie but Ms. Arjona is his equal in every way, both in hotness, quick thinking, and ability to convey complicated, frequently shifting emotions on her pretty face. It’s been a very long time since a couple has so thoroughly scorched a movie screen together like this (the fact that their first sex act together is cunnilingus is especially appreciated). As their happiness with each other grows and Ron’s confidence starts leaching over into Gary’s normal life – to point where the students begin commenting on how hot he is, and it’s just embarrassing now, but they don’t comment nearly enough on how hot he is – the points about identity, confidence and self-belief land like panties dropping. Even the ending, which for once manages to successfully have its pie and eat it, isn’t a cheat.

Mr. Linklater is unquestionably one of the most interesting directors in America today. His obsessions (and the source of his best movies) are masculinity, romance and the passing of time, and how the passing of time shapes who we are and how we love. Part of the reason his “Before Sunrise” trilogy is so beloved is that very few other directors allow their male characters to be so articulate and vulnerable about their romantic feelings, and by making Gary a philosophy professor “Hit Man” taps that same vein. Mr. Linklater often works repeatedly with the same actors, beginning with Mr. Powell as a teenager in 2006’s “Fast Food Nation,” and together they hinted at the depths on display here when Mr. Powell’s chauvinistic baseball player was tackled to the ground by a horny musical-theater nerd in “Everybody Wants Some!!” Recently Mr. Powell has played military men or Ralph Bellamy parts (i.e., the guy the heroine dumps for the hero), but based on “Hit Man” he is extremely motivated to change that. And while this review is that horny musical-theater nerd completely out of control, let me attempt to regain some professional self-respect by saying plainly this movie is sexy, charming and smart, a very hot date, all the more so for being such a surprise. If I have trashed my critical reputation with this review, well at least I had fun.


Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.

© 2008-2024 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on X
Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions | Powered by TypePad