Saturday, May 22, 2010

HITMANNING! (2010)


"Can I get a hitmaaaaan?" goes the hilarious a cappella refrain, jump starting this unabashedly silly, frequently inspired webseries on an appropriately irreverent note. How fitting, given the fledgling show's do-it-yourself ingenuity, that the voices we hear harmonizing on the soundtrack belong to the close-knit creative team at the helm. They're also, as it turns out, the twentysomething stars of the show. When doofus lay-abouts Ian (Ian Hinck) and Joe (Joe Aherns) discover that their suspiciously monied, occasionally blood-speckled roommate (Douglas Thornton) is an assassin-for-hire named The Florist, the two decide to make their own go at the deadly profession--for no other reason, goes the shrug of a central gag, than they're bored and could use the money. Misadventures naturally ensue, with various quirky ensemble players—including an Irish-brogued Big Boss, a button-cute potential love interest and a twitchy, psychotic war veteran—wandering through the episodic narrative.

"Hitmanning" aims its anything-for-a-laugh uzi at a generation weened on Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow and the headier running gags of serialized comedies like "Arrested Development" and "30 Rock." Slacker-goofball verbiage rubs shoulders with splattery slapstick violence. The pacing, alternately madcap and pregnant-pause deadpan, owes a serious debt to Adult Swim. When its not being a live action cartoon, "Hitmanning" is being an actual one; there's a sporadic wealth of surprisingly accomplished animation on display here, most notably during a beautiful hand-drawn origin story (unfolding in R. Crumb-worthy still images) that flirts with a dark poignancy the series doesn't quite know what to do with.

The show is at its best when it's futzing with genre convention. Episode 3 runs with a pitch-perfect sitcom trope—the date gone wrong!—while a later ep skillfully nips at the musical-comedy ankles of "Flight of the Concords." (Turns out these jokers can sing, too.) "Hitmanning" is 100% the brain-child of its three leads, who moonlight as the show's writers, producers, composers, even its production designers. That they use their real names only reinforces the sense that we're watching a kind of joyfully enthusiastic inside joke, three impish best mates realizing their own fanboyish fantasies, their wild ambitions eclipsing their modest means.

Armed with impeccable timing, Ian and Joe make for an agreeable comic duo—the former's a squirrelly spazz, the latter's a (mostly) gentle giant, and the two share an easy, infectious rapport that makes up for a certain inconsistency of character. (These boys can't quite seem to decide if they're playing lovable, in-over-their-head everydudes or budding sociopaths.) The real star-in-the-making here is Doug, who does wonders with an arched eyebrow and a voice fit for radio. He plays The Florist as a kind of smarmy yuppie vigilante, stoked to finally have an audience for his pompous Man of Mystery routine. Perhaps the inevitable second season will tease out his role as dubious mentor, though the cliffhanger finale instead hints at a focus on, to paraphrase one knowing line of dialogue, "comic book-y" mythology. Me, I'm less interested in the intricate inner workings of The Assassins League than I am in seeing these three deliver on the promise of their winning premise. Either way: more please.

New episodes of "Hitmanning" go live every Tuesday night here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Link of the Day: EVERYONE ELSE


Greetings from space. As you may or may have not noticed, Wild Lines has been on a short but unexpected hiatus. I would have announced my late-winter hibernation (like this guy did) had I anticipated it. Life and art should never be mutually exclusive, but, truth is, the former took precedence over the latter these past six weeks. And I'm glad it did.

That having been said, it's good to be back. First up on the summer posting schedule: a review of Maren Ade's relationship autopsy, Everyone Else. Check it out over at In Review Online, my home away from home.

What to look for in the near future: theatrical reviews for InRo, the inaugural editions of two new columns (one an avant garde retrospective, the other a critical cage match) and an unlikely defense of a certain maligned production company. (Hint: it's run by one of the worst directors of our time and chiefly concerned with remaking movies that don't need to remade.) See you in less than six weeks.