‘Hit Man’ Review: A Genre-Spanning Romance Rooted in Philosophical Musing

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Hit Man (2024) © Netflix
Hit Man (2024) © Netflix

Who are we? What makes up our personality? Can we change through authenticity or force? And when that force becomes authentic, is it still force or a new state of living? These are the big questions that we face ourselves with as we grow and have experiences that either wax or wane against our personality. Richard Linklater navigates the subject matter naturally and with the highest amount of entertainment in Hit Man.

★★★★★

Of course, this philosophical tone is nothing new to the director of films like Before Sunrise, based around two characters asking the deepest questions to each other while they fall in love, or even the fly-on-the-wall life experience of Boyhood; but never has his style of questioning been so accessible as it is in Hit Man.

Hit Man follows Gary Johnson (Glen Powell), a part-time philosophy professor and part-time surveillance cop, who falls into undercover work by coincidence. Posing as a hit man and incriminating possible murderers, Gary hits a wall when he meets Madison (Adria Arjona) in his undercover capers—a woman who is smitten by him and vice versa. The experience calls his identity, and who he is as a man, into question.

Hit Man (2024) © Netflix

Hit Man is not the world’s most ambitious film in terms of style but it excels in its simplicity and heart. From the first scene, the film aims high for laughs per minute in a way that almost feels like a 2000s era Apatow comedy. Powell crushes scene after scene as he invents an array of undercover characters, ranging from Russian crime lords to all-American gun lovers all specifically tailored to match each suspect. But as his day job as a philosophy professor begins to reflect the internal issues of his work and romance, the Linklater we know comes into full view—although not in the way we might expect.

Heavily steeped in tropes and techniques of old Hollywood screwball, noir and rom-coms (femme fatales, meet-cutes, double-crossing, life insurance loans), combined with the star power of Powell’s and Arjona’s chemistry, give Linklater’s usual musings a bit of pizzazz. It makes the film lean further into entertainment, with the two performances so quintessentially Hollywood in their largeness but remaining firmly human despite the confines of genre.

Hit Man (2024) © Netflix

Beyond an excellent screenplay, which smartly develops its main character across two hours while having a driving, comforting but also slightly unpredictable plot, the cast and director seem to be working on a similar, collaborative wavelength and these characters are more lived-in than you’d expect from the genre. Still, this allows the film to leave with a lingering feeling of positivity and a sense of inspiration to become the people we want to be without the idea of being inauthentic or the fear outside of comfort.

The Verdict

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell (who has co-writing credits) have created a career highlight for themselves. Although their main character is often scared to leave his comfort zone, and quite unsure of who he is as a person, their creation never falters.

Words by Ellis Lamai


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