Capsule movie review: Aki Kaurismaki’s “I Hired a Contract Killer”

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Having been fired from his job, a lonely bureaucrat contemplates suicide. After two failed (and laughable) attempts to kill himself, he decides to hire a hitman to take care of that job for him. While sitting alone at a local pub, he meets a flower girl and instantly falls for her. Suddenly, he finds a reason to live. His attempt to call off the hit goes in vain and soon finds that the hitman is on his trail. As expected from a Kaurismaki film, this leads to a series of comical situations. The premise may sound a bit dreary but it’s relatively light-hearted and unexpectedly optimistic. Deadpan humor at it’s finest. You can’t help but smile at a scene in which a group of assassins at a pub try to persuade the depressed protagonist to change his mind about killing himself. You don’t see something like that very often. And there is a jewellery store robbery scene that is equally noteworthy. And once you learn about the hitman’s story, you can’t help feeling a little sympathetic toward him. In Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows, Day for Night), Kaurismaki had found the ideal candidate to play this role. His mannerisms and delivery in some scenes cracked me up. There is also a cameo by another famous French actor Serge Reggiani (Le Doulos, Army of Shadows, Casque d’Or). With a short run-time of around 80 minutes, this is one of the Finnish director’s few films made in the English language.

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