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May 21, 2024 / Vortex Media

Starring: Simon Baker, Rob Collins, Mezi Atwood

Directed By: Ivan Sen

Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater’s sunlit neo-noir stars Glen Powell as strait-laced professor Gary Johnson, who moonlights as a fake hit man for the New Orleans Police Department. Preternaturally gifted at inhabiting different guises and personalities to catch hapless people hoping to bump off their enemies, Gary descends into morally dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to one of those potential criminals, a beautiful young woman named Madison (Adria Arjona). As Madison falls for one of Gary’s hit man personas — the mysteriously sexy Ron — their steamy affair sets off a chain reaction of play acting, deception, and escalating stakes. Co-written by Linklater and Powell and inspired by an unbelievable true story, Hit Man is a cleverly existential comedy about identity.

Written By Kurt Morrison

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Ivan Sen's remarkable crime film delves deep into the weariness entrenched in the desert town of Limbo, South Australia. This fatigue permeates every aspect, from the sluggish pace of the narrative to Simon Baker's subdued portrayal of a cop weathered by his profession.

Sen, a multi-talented Indigenous filmmaker, not only wrote and directed but also shot, edited, and co-produced the film, crafting a bleak yet compelling story underscored by a sparsely used score. Building on themes from Sen's previous works like Mystery Road and Goldstone, Limbo explores Indigenous experiences within Australia's justice system. It’s a distinctive work, both visually – the stark black and white photography accentuates the uncanny, almost alien environment on this scarred terrain – and in terms of its intriguingly detached outback noir storytelling.

Simon Baker delivers a standout performance as Travis Hurley, a disillusioned detective tasked with revisiting a decades-old case involving the disappearance of an Aboriginal girl. As Travis uncovers the haunting realities faced by the girl's family, he finds himself drawn into their world of unresolved trauma and injustice.

Despite Travis's apathy towards his job and personal demons, his connection with the grieving family reignites his sense of duty. And there’s something about the fractured family of the missing girl, still dealing with a pain that has no end, that awakens Travis’ dormant police instincts. He can’t mend his own burnt-out car wreck of a life. But maybe he can help fix theirs.

Overall, it's a testament to how good Baker can be when giving quality writing and a great eye behind the camera guiding him. And this is where the film really excels.

Set in the fictional town of Limbo, inspired by the opal mining community of Coober Pedy, the film's setting adds to its brooding atmosphere. Travis, residing in the eerie Limbo Motel, navigates a maze of tunnels haunted by memories of past tragedies, reflecting his own internal struggles. The allegorical visual storytelling is very open to interpretation but director Sen does a great job at allowing us more insight into not only Travis’ psyche as the film carries on, but how this town holds skeletons in its deep closets. Admittedly, at times the film does feel slow, and begs you to be patient with it. Its bleakness really wears you down as the runtime continues but as said, if you are patient with it, the payout in its final act is really worth the wait time.

Sen is really a force to be reckoned with, and although a film like 2022’s Expired (Or Loveland depending on what title you got at release), wasn’t able to capture his ability to craft well developed character or a great narrative, this thankfully steers that ship back in the right direction.

A complete surprise, Limbo emerges as a compelling examination of resilience in the face of despair, illustrating the transformative influence of empathy and redemption through poignant narrative and Baker's nuanced performance. I recommend you guys track this one down as I was very impressed and look forward to keeping my eye continually on writer-director Ivan Sen, as he continues to blossom as one of Australia’s great film voices.

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