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Hit Man: Secrets of Lies

average rating is 4 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Apr 11, 2023

Film Reviews
Hit Man: Secrets of Lies
Directed by:
Elias Plagianos
Written by:
Elias Plagianos
Richard Kind, William Sadler, Karen Allen, Peter Riegert

You may expect a film entitled ‘Hit Man: Secrets of Lies’ to be a middling action film, with a bald man played by either Timothy Olyphant or Rupert Friend totting some heavy duty weapons. Instead, ‘Secrets of Lies’ is a cold, brooding thriller - a character study asking why we do what we do, especially when what we do has such a profound impact on others.


The hitman at the centre of ‘Secrets of Lies’ isn’t the muscle-man you expect in these sort of films either, instead he’s a world-wearied Richard Kind, who’s starting to feel all the years he’s put into the business take a toll on his body. Kind plays JP Keller, though for much of the film is Al Gordon, as he navigates interwoven plots involving a therapy session and a mission to a quiet rural town.


Following the vein of the iconic ‘The Sopranos’, it’s always interesting to see a bad guy in therapy and forced to face the weight of their actions. That’s what Keller has to do, seeking a connection and understanding of his past and how it has impacted the man which he became. Therapist Jerrald Been (William Sadler) doesn’t offer very much in terms of comfort, more nodding on as Keller talks about his childhood and his absent father.


That’s further built upon on Keller’s mission, which takes him to a leafy All-American town in the north, the kind of idyllic place men of his age normally retire. His target is Ed Vandemeer (Peter Riegert), who quietly enjoys life in the witness protection programme with his wife Betty (Karen Allen). We never learn what Ed has done and that’s the point. It outlines the coldness of Keller’s job, and how little of it involves any passion.


Writer-director Elias Plagianos illustrates this inherent coldness in Keller, which has come from years of making his living on the misfortune of others. He approaches everything with a sigh and a sad glance, with the knowledge that his time spent in this communal town will be abruptly cut short by his own responsibilities and actions. Based on the novel ‘Hit Man’ by Lawrence Block, Plagianos brings the story to life adeptly, with a nuanced screenplay and competent direction clearly painting a character that can blend in anywhere, and with a danger about his presence, mixed with years of regret and tiredness.


Richard Kind is impressive in the lead role, possessing both a brewing menace and a genial warmth in equal measure. It’s a subtle performance, not showy at any point but instead focused on a deft glance and the slyly false intonation in his voice. It is always nice to see the likes of Sadler, Allen and Riegert grace our screens and they provide honest performances, particularly Allen, to match Kind’s subtlety.


The title itself doesn’t make sense, how can you have a secret of a lie? But that is besides the point, as is the occasional stupidity of the screenplay, which forces you at times to suspend belief. Nevertheless, ‘Hit Man: Secrets of Lies’ is a surprisingly taut film, a cold study of a man doubting his profession, yet compelled to carry out one last job regardless. At a certain point it becomes a part of him, he’s institutionalised or no longer cares enough to change his path, and that’s what makes ‘Secrets of Lies’ such a chilling film.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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