Sometimes the best man for the job is a teenage girl.
Take Freaky Friday, add a little Pulp Fiction, and maybe a small taste of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you’d get something a lot like The Hit Girl.
(To answer your question: No, this movie has nothing to do with the character of the same name from Kick-Ass.)
Bill (James Castle Stevens) is a hitman, but he’s the only-kills-bad-guys kind. When not shooting scumbags in exchange for money, he spends time with his niece Suzy (Jessamyn Arnstein) and her mom. After a chance encounter with a magical sculpture, Bill wakes up in the body of a teenage girl (Ella Bowen). Now it’s up to Suzy to teach her uncle, who now has the pseudonym “Jessica,” the ways of being a girl. When some sinister human traffickers show up with a plot to abduct Suzy and Jessica’s friends, Jessica decides it’s time for no more Mr. Nice Girl.
OK, look: If I were to put on my highbrow cinema hat and do the serious film theory and criticism thing, then the movie wouldn’t hold muster. It’s nicely shot, but not so much to cover its low budget. The acting is often big and broad, and the plot and dialogue tend to be too heavy with exposition. But—and this is a big, well-toned “but”—the movie is rich with those other, ambiguous, harder-to-quantify critic buzzwords such as likability, charm, genuineness, and the fun factor. Most importantly, love. The folks who made this movie love this movie. They loved making it and they adore the finished project. There’s so much affection thrown into this silly little movie that viewers will feel it too.
One reason the movie works as well as it does is its “geek cred.” The flick begins with a Tarantino-ish sequence where a gathering of nerds arguing with each other about nerdy stuff becomes a gritty gunfight. The gunplay, though, ends with another humorous note. Then, we meet Suzy, a movie junkie who sees life through the filter of all the flicks she’s seen. We’ve seen characters like this plenty of times (Abed, anyone?) but it works in the context of the movie. When Bill transforms into a girl, Suzy can take the lead in the situation, as she’s seen this type of thing in old movies. This propels the story forward several steps—helpful because the audience has likely seen those old movies as well—so we can skip ahead to the comedic gender-bending bits.
This action-comedy leans heavier towards comedy. The guns-a-blazin’ action is fleeting, in favor of laughs. The fish-out-of-water yuks come from Jessica acting like a grown man around the other girls, and from her being a lot smaller than the big, burly Bill. Ella Bowen emphasizes a lot of physicality to her performance, with a lot of it being how she walks, how she stands, how she moves, etc. She and Jessamyn Arnstein have great chemistry as they banter back and forth.
Again, there’s no hiding the movie’s low budget, but the picture quality on the DVD is nonetheless clean. Sound, also, is decent. Dialogue is clear, but the action and music aren’t exactly immersive. Extras begin with a commentary featuring the director, producer and actress Jessamyn Arnstein. It’s a great track, with a lot of amusing anecdotes from the production, and further evidence how everyone’s enthusiasm for the movie. There’s a blooper reel and some alternate takes of one scene, plus a music video made up of behind-the-scenes footage. The extras are rounded out with a trailer for director James A. Ward’s previous film, Identity Theft.
The Hit Girl was partially funded by backers on Kickstarter. This is something we’re going to see a lot more of in the near future, so we’d best get used to it. If future filmmakers use those precious Kickstarter dollars to make movies as fun and engaging as The Hit Girl, then let the crowdfunding begin.