The title of this film looks and sounds like the title of an action movie, a crime thriller, or a video game adaptation. But in fact, it is a romantic comedy, or rather a black romantic comedy. And if you read it deeper, it is an ironic philosophical and psychological reflection (based on the story of a real person) on the topic of what the self is and whether this self can be changed under the influence of circumstances and motivation. What is the “mystical” alter ego that books and movies constantly talk about, and how can this alter ego (which is usually dark in novels, but in real life… it’s just different) be lured into the light. Is it possible to be a dog person and suddenly love cats, or vice versa?

Title Hit Man
Genre black romantic comedy
Director Richard Linklater
У ролях Glen Powell, Adria Archona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Molly Bernard, Evan Holtzman, Mike Markoff and others
Studios AGC Studios, ShivHans Pictures, Monarch Media, Barnstorm Productions, Aggregate Films, Cinetic Media, Detour Filmproduction
Timing 1 hour 55 minutes
Year 2023
Website IMDb

The plot revolves around a nerdy teacher named Gary Johnson who teaches philosophy and psychology in New Orleans. He lives an extremely boring, lonely life, wearing shorts, sandals, and plaid shirts. Teaching the theories of Kant and Nietzsche, he tells his students about the release of some hidden self that allows you to live life to the fullest, to the maximum, but he quietly drives a Honda Civic and has two cats named Ego and Id (ID). In other words, Gary Johnson identifies himself as an ordinary and inconspicuous person, completely incapable of any adventures… like eating a tuna sandwich for breakfast instead of ham or drinking tea instead of coffee.

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

Unexpectedly (and this is the least of all the surprises in this film), it turns out that the teacher also works part-time for the police in tech support because he is good at technology (and this is the same kind of split identity, being both a humanitarian and a techie, as loving coffee and tea or cats and dogs at the same time).

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

In particular, he takes care of listening equipment and records dialogues between an undercover agent pretending to be a killer and the clumsy customers of potential murders. Not some bigwigs who, with the help of professional mercenaries, eliminate business rivals or unwanted politicians for big money, but ordinary people who are very clumsy in such arrangements: Husbands who decided to get rid of their wives; wives who wanted to get rid of their husbands; dandelion old ladies who were kicked out by their neighbors; evil teenagers who were pissed off by their mothers… The unfortunate clients are caught red-handed and brought to justice for their evil intentions, but the murders that could have happened do not happen (we should tell the characters in the movie “Dissenting Opinion” that it is much easier and cheaper to prevent crimes).

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

Somehow, due to force majeure, the teacher has to replace the undercover agent and play the role of a fake killer. Again, unexpectedly, this quiet man in sandals manages to masterfully transform into images of brutal, manic, harsh, confident, cynical, and furious types that are completely unlike himself. For each client, Gary creates a separate image of a mercenary (with or without a mustache, with tattoos or rotten teeth, with gloves or a leather coat, with a pageboy hairstyle or gel styling…), studying their worldview and cinematic tastes on social media in advance, and never misses a beat. Until he meets a very pretty customer for whom he not only performs a masquerade, but creates an alter ego that he willingly believes in

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

The director and screenwriter Richard Linklater, known as an auteur and even art house director, once upon a time made a romantic trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which can be called the smartest, most mature, most intelligent and most realistic of all existing romances. But while the famous trilogy was chamber and conversational, built on a continuous dialog, Hit Man is almost closer to action or at least adventure, almost equal to Knight of the Day (although, of course, much more modest in its budget). And in Linklater’s career, this is definitely the most genre-specific, most audience-friendly, most entertaining film.

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with actor Glenn Powell (Top Gun: Maverick), and the latter played the lead role: he played the on-screen version (on-screen alter ego) of a real man named Gary Johnson, who was featured in a 2001 article in Texas Monthly magazine. Gary was not a role reversal artist, nor did he suffer from dissociative identity disorder. He was (or still is) an “ordinary” but very… versatile person, and during his life he combined several deliberately different personalities in one body, from a Vietnam veteran to a university professor, from an undercover agent to an animal rights activist and a Buddhist. And Glen Powell, who is still an artist and lives and works by changing roles, only in Hit Me (by the way, a hitman is a hired killer, and hit man can be translated as a “hit man”) masterfully played the ability to masterfully transform and became one of the most unexpected (again) discoveries of the last year.

Кадр з фільму "Хіт мен" /Hit Man
Still from the movie Hit Man

The first half, where the teacher bombards the cinephile audience with killer images lifted from hit movies about hired killers (from “Lay Low in Bruggs” to the colorful Anton Chegur from Coen’s masterpiece “No Country for Old Men”), and where his clumsy clients with thin wallets pay extra for “wetting themselves on the minimum wage” with a dockless motorboat or a collection of Mortal Kombat video gamesis completely ridiculous. The second half is full of twists and turns, ending (yes, unexpectedly) with the blackest black comedy twist possible.

The authors claim that the image of a killer does not exist at all, because there is no such thing as a killer. There are only our perceptions of him, generated by the most vivid characters in pop culture. And here, the lighthearted and seemingly uncomplicated Hit Man cunningly leads to a really deep philosophical thought: maybe there is no unambiguous ego, no unambiguous “I” either. There is only identity, the totality of our perceptions of ourselves, and it is slippery and changeable, depending on many influences and factors. And if you think about it, that is, if you think about yourself in a slightly different way, you can easily imagine a completely different self. And the same person today can be a “murderer” who demanded the death of the closest person, and tomorrow he can be a sincerely loving son, wife, husband… The day after tomorrow he can kill for real, and he can never remember that wild “curiosity” again. Today you can be a cat person and drink tea, and tomorrow you can become a coffee person and a dog person. And no one is born with an “I”. Accordingly, one can live and die in any guise.