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In the new Netflix film Hit Man, a character implicitly suggests that the film’s protagonist, a philosophy professor named Gary Johnson, has a face as unremarkable as his name. This anonymity makes Gary the perfect person to run undercover operations on behalf of the local police, essentially tricking people into confessing to their desires to murder. Gary does this by posing as a contract killer, a profession that (he tells us in a wry voiceover) only exists in movies“The idea that there are people out there at the retail level that you can just hire to fix the worst relationship problems … that’s a total pop culture fantasy,” he says of footage of famous movie killers.

The fact that Gary is played in the film by Glen Powell certainly raises some questions about that unremarkable facial part, because no comparison to a chipmunk could convince someone with a pair of eyes that he isn’t one of the best-looking men in the world. But as adaptable as Powell has proven himself to be in a variety of genres, he’s not exactly, say, Daniel Day Lewis when it comes to chameleon-like performances. Powell, who also wrote the screenplay for this film alongside the legendary director, Richard Linklaterseems to enjoy his own image as a leading man on the verge of fame and also makes strong statements about the concept of masculinity itself.

Also read – Film review of “The Killer”: David Fincher’s new Netflix film is more tedious than dangerous

To catch the shady men and women who “hire” him to kill their spouses or business partners, Gary dons a series of disguises that go just one step further than your average Saturday Night Live costume. He also takes on a different persona for each assignment, tailored to his potential clients’ idea of ​​a hitman. In one scene, he’s a trench-coated Russian, in another, a tattooed Bostonian. In a third, he’s… Tilda Swinton from Snowpiercer? After a riveting introductory scene in which Gary extracts a confession by playing a hitman who appears to be dumping bodies in the bayou of his family estate, the film jumps between a montage that places him at the exact intersection of performance art and murderous intent previously occupied by Bill Hader on HBO’s Barry.

Contract killer Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man. (Photo: Netflix)

But Hit Man takes a sharp left turn and becomes comedy noir when, on another mission, a stunning young woman approaches Gary in a diner – this time posing as a charming guy named Ron, which is basically AI’s idea of ​​a main character in a romantic comedy – and tells him about the abusive husband she wants out of her life. Madison is terrified and visibly at the end of the toxic relationship she’s been running from for years. Sensing she can be saved – he’s clearly attracted to her too – Gary makes a sudden decision that stuns his colleagues in the surveillance vehicle parked outside. He tells Madison to rethink her choices and use the money she was going to pay him to start a new life. It’s a great meeting, complete with an instant classic line: “Any pie is good pie.”

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Played by Adria ArjonaMadison is both seductive and slippery, a vulnerable victim desperately searching for her Prince Charming. The ethics of this arrangement are questionable, but of course they start dating. Little does she know that “Ron” is not actually a hitman; hell, she has no idea that his name isn’t Ron at all. The mild-mannered Gary, meanwhile, begins to enjoy playing this infinitely more confident, wildly charismatic alter ego. There’s a catch, though. What Gary is Really Madison is tricked into believing he is someone else; some deeply patriarchal corner of his psyche, it seems, has activated the male savior figure within him. But the film doesn’t want you to think about that for too long.

For someone who has openly mocked Marvel movies in the past, Powell is arguably as close to playing a superhero as he’s ever come. His scenes with Arjona – and this may sound like high praise – evoke the same raw chemistry that Linklater got out of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in his Before trilogy. And that’s because he gives the actors a chance to develop without locking them into prison-like storylines. Madison and “Ron,” for example, don’t live under the film-imposed misconception that every conversation they have has to revolve around immediate goals.

Contract killer Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. (Photo: Netflix)

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This approach was also used to develop the latest Mr and Mrs Smith series is in a class of its own. Hit Man has several memorable scenes where “Ron” and Madison try to playfully peel back the layers of each other’s personalities; it’s as if they know they’re participating in some kind of real-life role-playing, but that makes their budding romance even more exciting. That is What makes the screen drip with desire.

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Hit Man is endlessly interested in the idea of ​​the self and the sometimes small differences in how people behave when they’re with others and when they’re alone. There’s a reason Gary is a philosophy professor, after all. The film also tackles pop culture’s favorite chicken-and-egg dilemma: Who does Mary Jane Watson love more, Peter Parker or Spider-Man? And if love is the ultimate goal, does one have to kill the other to survive?

What seems to fascinate Linklater more than anything, however, is the idea of ​​rediscovery. We learn that Gary was once married, but while his ex-wife is expecting a child with her new partner, he remains faithful to the idea of ​​what they once had. It’s clear that he felt inadequate when they were together, and perhaps The is the main reason for his deep desire to be someone else. But Linklater by no means turns it into a deep character study; Hit Man is first and foremost a gripping genre film and one of the best acquisitions Netflix has made in recent memory.

HitMan
director – Richard Linklater
Pour – Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao
reviews – 4/5

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Rohan Naahar

Rohan Naahar is the deputy editor at Indian Express Online. He covers pop culture across all formats and mediums. He is a Rotten Tomatoes-acclaimed critic and a member of the Film Critics Guild of India. He previously worked at the Hindustan Times, where he wrote hundreds of film and television reviews, produced videos and interviewed the biggest names in Indian and international cinema. At the Express, he writes a column called ‘Post Credits Scene’ and has hosted a podcast called ‘Movie Police’. You can find him on X at @RohanNaahar and write to him at [email protected]. He is also on LinkedIn and Instagram. … Read more

First uploaded on: 12.06.2024 at 07:58 IST

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