With its world premiere in Venice, “Hit Man”, the new narrative co-signed and directed by Richard Linklater, passed through LEFFEST 2023 in the Official Selection – Out of Competition. This apparently light comedy puts psychoanalysis at the forefront and gives us a very different proposal from the Texan filmmaker. The entertainment value is irrefutable.
When we think about Richard Linklater we think of fragments of existence captured on camera, fictions that are confused with reality itself. Some of his reference works come to mind: “Boyhood – Moments of a Lifetime”, filmed over 12 years with the same central actor. The romantic trilogy appears “Before Dawn”, “Before Dark” It is “Before midnight”, recorded over a period of 18 years and perhaps possesses the best romantic dialogues ever immortalized in cinema. Debatable, but it’s fair to say that the impact of this saga is difficult to overcome (and that few write relationships like the trio Linklater, Delpy, Hawke).
Well, Linklater’s filmography is much more extensive and comprises very different genres and “Hit Man” takes us back to that. The opposite of serene or leisurely, this film is a constant source of agitation and, not being free from intellectualization (the protagonist is an academic and professor of Philosophy and Psychology, after all), it is safe to say that its ultimate aim is entertain. It happens in this field.
LINKLATER’S FREUDIAN ACTION
From the first moments of “Hit Man” we feel a constant rhythm and immersion in the narrative. With the protagonist Glen Powell by your side and still Skip Hollandsworththe argument co-written by Linklater presents us with a reflection based on terms coming from Freudian theory – Ego, Super Ego, and Id – key concepts for his definition of the psyche. At an early stage in the plot, these concepts are detailed, with the entire progression of the story dependent on them. How can we reconcile the more conscious part of our personality and prevent our impulsiveness from taking over? How can we make morally sound decisions that are not subjugated to the pursuit of pleasure and aversion to fear?
The very notion of personality and identity is explored here from a valid starting point: an unlikely narrative that, after all, is lightly based on a true story. This exploration never becomes dark or heavy, as the themes might predict. On the contrary, the codes of storytelling used here are, in large part, those of comedy and, in equal measure, those of action.
In addition to the timing impeccable comedy that “Hit Man” is made of, the cast itself is also made up of actors associated with this genre (As Retta in “Parks&Rec” or Molly Bernard in “Younger”, between others). On the other hand, the rules of progression are largely driven by what is expected in the action realms. Whether we are talking about the constant presence of weapons (Recently Linklater had already spoken out against military violence in the United States in “The Last Journey” or “Last Flag Flying”) or the existence of a hero who saves or is saved at the last minute and villains who make his journey difficult. The clichés are there, in this case, so that with them it is possible to create comedy and even some problematization.
GARY JOHNSON’S MULTITUDES IN HIT MAN
Of course the Gary Johnson from Glen Powell, university professor of Philosophy and Psychology, does not correspond at all to the archetype of the genre. However, Glen Powell, his interpreter, actor and double, who recently appeared in the great action hit “Top Gun: Maverick”, fits the description perfectly. Between Gary’s place in action narratives (this teacher would certainly be the character who needs to be saved, not the one who saves the day) and the physical appearance and dexterity of his performer there is a world of difference. The triad of screenwriters knows how to use this dissonance to the film’s advantage, creating an effective contrast and allowing their action hero a very sharp arc of progression.
And who exactly is Gary Johnson (Glen Powell), character inspired by a true story? A philosophy professor with a routine life and just two cats for company, Gary works for the police as a technician, in his free time, helping with wiretaps. His life is radically transformed when he begins to do undercover workplaying the role of a hired killer, in order to ensure that those who seek such services are arrested by the police.
Our protagonist begins to live more and more in the shoes of these characters, who seem to restore to him a certain feeling of vivacity, combined with adrenaline and a greater understanding the human psyche. As an academic, Gary embraces this involvement but an obstacle is placed in his path: the beautiful Maddy Masters (Adria Arjona) is placed on her path, determined to end the torment of her abusive husband by hiring a murderer to kill him. Gary breaks protocol here and gives him the opportunity to start over.
A MR. & MRS. MOST IRREVERENT SMITH?
From this moment on, a dysfunctional, sensual and engaging romantic comedywith echoes of the dizzying events of the unconventional screwball comedies. Over the course of almost two hours, “Hit Man” never slows down, capturing the audience more and more in its madness.
Glen Powell co-writes a role for you that allows you to cover your range of skills and your sexual chemistry with Adria Arjona It’s one of the highlights of the story. As a genuinely hilarious comedy, and also intelligent, it’s a shame that “Hit Man” is condemned to not being a film for the general public. Its violence is very explicit and the heavy age rating is not only a probability but a necessity.
Still, we hope that the work, which is currently still on its festival route, has the right to a friendly domestic and international opening, as this could be the most memorable film that Linklater directed and co-wrote since “Boyhood”. , almost a decade ago.
Richard Linklater’s criminal comedy hits Portuguese theaters next year, on April 18, 2024, with distribution by NOS Audiovisuais. It was entitled to its first public exhibition in Portugal as part of the 17th LEFFEST.
Hit Man, the review
Movie title: Hit Man
Movie description: Inspired by a true story, Hit Man follows the life of a philosophy professor (Glen Powell) who is also a mysterious hired killer working undercover for the police. When he decides to break protocol to protect a desperate woman (Adria Arjona) who is trying to escape an abusive relationship, the barriers that distinguish him from his false persona fade as he begins to contemplate the idea of becoming a real criminal. Between thriller and true crime comedy, the film won over audiences at the Toronto and Venice festivals and was described by critics as one of Linklater’s wittiest works.
Date published: November 30, 2023
Author: Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Skip Hollandsworth
Director(s): Richard Linklater
Actor(s): Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Retta, Austin Amelio
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Thriller
With “Hit Man”, Richard Linklater proposes a film that is only light at first glance. This work of his has the potential to please different audiences, taking into account the various reading levels found in it. Glen Powell plays in the best of both worlds, managing to combine his passion for action and physicality with the greater interiority of Linklater’s arguments. It is from their specific encounter that the charm of the feature film is born.
- The exuberant sensuality of “Hit Man” and its meeting between comedy, existentialist drama and stories of ‘true crime’. What an unusual and captivating recipe!
- The insertion of clear comedy codes does not trivialize the intricacies of the story. Light but robust, this is the narrative presented here.
- Glen Powell is a box of surprises and Adria Arjona is stunning and doesn’t let herself be overshadowed by her star.
- The homage to genres of comedy and crime from the 20th century married with a skeptical, tired and neurotic vision very much in the style of today.
- Nothing particular to point out, it’s not perfect but it fulfills its purpose perfectly.