Before the Sundance 2024 screening Monday of his new film “Hit Man,” director Richard Linklater described himself – and a whole generation of filmmakers – as the “children of Robert Redford.”
Linklater, a Sundance darling who was also at the festival to promote his new limited series “God Save Texas,” described it as “the glue that holds the indie film world together.” And when his “Hit Man” leading man (and co-writer) Glen Powell took the stage, he said that it was so exciting to be at Sundance since it was, “a festival that really loves movies.”
He then quipped: “Please don’t disappoint me.” They did not. In fact, the packed Sundance audience gave their film a rapturous response.
Not only were they laughing (heartily) along with the movie but at one point – in the middle of the movie no less – the audience burst into applause. And when the screening concluded, it received a standing ovation.
In an interesting coincidence, just as Linklater and Powell were taking the stage, the announcement was made that Netflix head of film Scott Stuber was leaving the studio, in part because of disagreements with Netflix over the low priority it gives to theatrical exhibition.
In that context, watching “Hit Man” play so well to an adoring audience felt odd. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to predict that the reaction in the theater in Park City will go down as one of Sundance 2024’s biggest. It’s the kind of R-rated good time film that frequently turns into a solid hit in theaters, and one can already imagine Alamo Drafthouse audiences turning screenings into a huge party.
Instead, per Netflix “Hit Man” is getting a “limited theatrical release” this summer, just prior to its launch on Netflix “in select countries.” (USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.”
No doubt the film will find a comfortable home on the streaming giant, but after watching how a live audience ate this up, it seems kind of a waste to limit how many times that might be repeated.
“Hit Man,” which premiered at Venice International Film Festival and was picked up out of the Toronto International Film Festival by Netflix for a cool $20 million, follows Gary Johnson (Powell), a college professor who moonlights as a fake assassin for the New Orleans Police Department. His life becomes even more complicated when he falls in love with a woman that wants to hire him to kill her husband (Adria Arjona).
Linklater combines elements of film noir, thriller and comedy to create a truly singular, intoxicating mélange and Powell, who made waves in “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Anyone But You” (which recently crossed the $100 million worldwide box office threshold), cements himself as a Hollywood star. He’ll also be starring in “Twisters,” a sequel to “Twister,” a few weeks after “Hit Man” appears on Netflix.
“Hit Man” hits Netflix on June 7.
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