Action Comedy

When Ego Meets Id: A TIFF Review of ‘Hit Man’

September 14, 2023Ben MK

As anyone who uses social media ought to know, there can be a vast disparity between how we portray ourselves online versus how we are in real life. In many ways, creating an online persona is very much like being an undercover cop — both require adopting a fake personality, perhaps even a disguise. Yet despite the difference in context, the end goal — deception — is always the same. It's a moral and ethical quandary that's bound to weigh on one's conscience eventually. And in Hit Man, that's exactly what happens, when a mild-mannered teacher playing a contract killer for the New Orleans Police Department finds himself getting romantically involved with one of his marks.

The 23rd feature film from director Richard Linklater, Hit Man is the story of Gary Johnson (Glen Powell), a teacher of psychology and philosophy who, by all accounts, is as unremarkable as they come. The owner of two cats, Gary drives a Honda Civic and enjoys dabbling with electronics repair in his spare time. But what his colleagues at work don't realize is that Gary is also a part-time employee of the N.O.P.D. Hired to help the cops with the tech for their undercover stings, Gary's quite at home in the back of an unmarked van, listening in on a set of headphones while someone else puts their life at risk. However, when the cops' undercover man (Austin Amelio) is suspended from the job and Gary is forced to step in, his life begins to take an unusual twist. Tasked with pretending to be a murderer-for-hire in order to catch those citizens looking to pay money for a stranger to kill someone else, Gary proves surprisingly good at his new role. That all changes, though, when he falls for an attractive woman named Madison Masters (Adria Arjona), who's looking for a way out of her abusive marriage.

What follows is nothing short of a star-making turn for Powell, who, after managing to confidently hold his own against both Tom Cruise and Miles Teller in 2022's Top Gun: Maverick, proves that he definitely has what it takes to play the leading man. Infusing the titular role with ample charm and charisma, the 34-year-old actor makes it extremely easy for audiences to fall under Hit Man's spell. And when you consider the fact that he also co-wrote the screenplay, well, that just makes the result all the more impressive.

Hit Man screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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