Richard Linklater brought his Hit Man to the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday, world premiering the comedy thriller out of competition to a six-minute ovation inside the Sala Grande.
The crowd’s response to the pic was notably enthusiastic, with one scene in particular between star Glen Powell and co-star Adria Arjona causing the audience to erupt in applause.
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Hit Man is loosely based on a true crime article Linklater came across about 20 years ago in the Texas Monthly about Gary Johnson, who had helped Houston police catch would-be criminals seeking a hitman’s services.
In the New Orleans-set film, this true tale is the jumping-off point for an escalating affair between Johnson (Powell) and a desperate woman (Arjona) trying to flee an abusive husband as Johnson finds himself becoming one of his false personas, falling for the woman and flirting with turning into a criminal himself.
The cast including Powell and Arjona were not in Venice owing to the SAG-AFTRA strike about which Linklater earlier in the day told the Venice press corps “I think something’s gotta give.”
Speaking with Deadline’s Joe Utichi today, Linklater said that while he’d mused on the story for years, it wasn’t until Powell — with whom he’d previously worked — called him during the pandemic that it “really started to become a thing.” The two co-wrote the script based on Skip Hollandsworth’s article.
The story is partly “about the notion of self-identity,” Linklater told Deadline. “Gary becomes trapped by his own choices in a way. He’s trapped in an identity that he prefers. Doesn’t that feel like it’s something that’s in the air right now, that identity—the way we identify—is very unstable? It can be whatever you want it to be. Truth can be whatever. I don’t know if it’s the virtual-ness of our era, but we’re definitely in something new. Politically, sexually… everything’s kind of up for grabs. This isn’t that specifically, but it’s the idea of that.”
Hit Man is for sale here in Venice via AGC Studios and indications are that a deal for this accessible, hilarious and well-crafted larger-than-life tale feels inevitable.
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