Hit Man
Photograph: Venice Film Festival
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Hit Man

4 out of 5 stars

Richard Linklater’s wildly entertaining comedy is the ‘Office Space’ of assassin movies

Phil de Semlyen

Time Out says

Fresh from his standout supporting turn as Top Gun: Maverick’s cocky fighter ace Hangman (catchphrase: ‘I am good. I’m very good’), Glen Powell gets a chance to show what he can do with a lead role in Richard Linklater’s inspired comedy. And guess what? He’s good. He’s very good.

Powell plays Gary Johnson, a divorced philosophy professor whose sad-sack life is only slightly spiced up by a moonlighting gig with the New Orleans Police Department. Such is his introverted lifestyle that his comically miniscule kitchen table has only one chair. Even his ex-wife is after him to start dating. 

Then, when the usual undercover cop is suspended, Gary suddenly finds himself forced to impersonate an assassin-for-hire in a sting operation designed to put enraged wives, jealous husbands and other assorted would-be murderers behind bars. It’s sink or swim and Gary, it turns out, is an Olympic freestyler when it comes to masquerading as a cocksure killers.

Soon, he’s creating elaborate, slightly over-the-top personas tailored to the needs of prospective clients, and posing as everything from ruthless leather-clad Russians to a slicked-back Patrick Bateman-alike to offer help with their ‘little problems’. Abused wife Madison (Adria Arjona) gets ‘Ron’, a smooth, sexy type with, fatally, a weakness for beautiful women. The pair fall into bed and Gary’s secret life spirals out of control.

It reminded me of Office Space – and there’s no higher praise than that

Hit Man’s opening intertitle jokingly warns that this is a ‘somewhat’ true story (its inspiration is an article by Linklater’s Bernie co-writer, Texan journo Skip Hollandsworth), so it needs you to roll with its silliest contrivances – and there are plenty of them. But Linklater and Powell’s deceptively brainy script turns all of them into comedy gold, mixing Jungian ideas about identity with a ready supply of zingers and one or two magnificent set-piece scenes. 

Comfortably Linklater’s best movie since Boyhood, Hit Man stands alongside School of Rock for big laughs and good vibes – albeit with a darker streak that slowly kicks in. The supporting cast keep the laughs coming, especially Parks and Recreation’s Retta as a fellow cop dumbfounded by Gary’s surprising acting gifts (‘Okay, Daniel Day!’). It reminded me a little of Office Space – and there’s no higher praise than that.

In cinemas May 24 and on Netflix worldwide Jun 7.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Richard Linklater
  • Screenwriter:Richard Linklater, Glen Powell
  • Cast:
    • Glen Powell
    • Adria Arjona
    • Retta
    • Mike Markoff
    • Austin Amelio
    • Molly Bernard
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