Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Last Hit Man: Grade B

The Last Hit Man (2008)
Joe Mantegna, Elizabeth Whitmere, Romano Orzari; Writer-director Christopher Warre Smets.

Mantegna is a worn-out hit man near the end of his career. His daughter (Whitmere) drives getaway. He doesn’t want her to know he is burned out, but she suspects and is protective of him. When he flubs an assignment, the employer sends a hit man after him (Orzari) but they end up becoming friends and try to find out who has ordered his death. The ending is believable and poignant.

Mantegna gives a very sensitive performance. He is not a stereotypical mobster, just an ordinary guy who misses his deceased wife and loves his daughter and enjoys his country house. His assassin cum friend (Orzari) also shows subtlety and complexity. The director really knows how to pull expressive performances out of small gestures and a few words. Whitmere does a competent job but her character is under-written so she is relegated to the obvious. It is the two men who keep you riveted. The story is inventive enough to keep up the pace. Photography is excellent, especially the black and white sequence before the titles. This is not great art. You have to accept that people hire contract killers to solve their problems, that murderous psychopaths also have gentle family lives and ordinary values, that there are no police or insurance investigators sniffing around, that killers never leave evidence, that bodies bury themselves, and much else. But within the constraints of the genre, this little Canadian film is surprising and satisfying.

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