Movie Review: A Quebecoise killer? “Confessions of a Hitman”

Hollywood turned serial killers into urbane sophisticates, monsters who appreciate a good “chianti” with their murders, or geniuses who enjoy making a “game” out of their crimes to toy with the cops.

Fact — most serial killers, the vast majority of them, are truck drivers. And at any given time, a couple of them are on the roads, murdering prostitutes by accident or for an added thrill in their truckstop transactions.

Hitmen are similarly glamorized by the movies and TV. They dress well, live lives of wealth and comfort and overuse the word “professional.” This goes back at least as far as Clint Eastwood’s turn in “The Eiger Sanction,” a contract (government) killer who collects art with his blood money.

Another fact — contract killers are rare birds, and to a one, they’re amoral morons, easily able to tune out any hint of conscience, anything in their dark, myopic souls that will complicate their ability to do a dirty job and not get caught doing it. They’re almost all some variation of “The Iceman,” a creep whose second most valuable skill is his or occasionally her ability to compartmentalize.

“Confessions of a Hitman” is a fictionalized account of the life and murders of Gérald Gallant, a French-Canadian killer still in prison for his years of “executions.” As portrayed by director and star Luc Picard (“Audition”), Gallant sees himself as “a soldier,” helping his Quebec gang contain the threat of incursions by the Hells Angels, among others. He’s really just a mug who likes the extra cash that comes with every hit.

He’s got to supplement his armed robbery/breaking and entering income somehow.

Picard wears “the banality of evil” in this careful but not clever, compartmentalized but wholly corrupt man who admits, in the film’s police interrogation framing device, that “I’ve hurt a lot of people,” in French with English subtitles.

“Confessions” takes us through part of Gallant’s career, and seeks to “explain” him by introducing his harridan of a mother (Louise Portal), who was no comfort during his bullied childhood. Reading the letter from his school at the family dinner table, revealing that the school has measured Gerald’s “below average” intelligence, with an IQ of 88, is a humiliation that lasts a lifetime.

Gallant stutters, and if we’re more compassionate than he’s ever been, we might wonder if the school didn’t use that as an excuse to write him off. Picard, if anything, plays down just how dense and dull this fellow most certainly is.

In his 50s, after a heart attack, he takes up cycling and somehow, rough as he looks and acts, has enough game — as an unhappily married man — to pick up a younger and prettier cyclist (Sandrine Bisson) via their shared hobby.

The narrative skips around in his life as his interrogator (Emmanel Charest) tries to piece together how his gang worked, just how many people he’s killed and who helped him do it.

The Quebecoise gang is as colorlessly criminal as Gallant, with only the newly-released ex-con Dolly (David La Haye) standing out. Why? He’s gay. Prison, he jokes, wasn’t the worst experience for him in that regard. He even cross-dresses as a disguise when he and Gallant are stalking one particular “patched” biker they execute in a Quebec diner.

Gallant acquires two pistols for every hit, has a favorite hiding spot for them in his late model Lincoln, and shops in the discount clothing store for his “uniform” for each assassination. He buys clothes he disposes of as part of every getaway – a non-descript shirt and jacket and a black baseball cap.

So I guess John Cusack did his homework before deciding on his “uniform” for his run of contract killer roles.

The murders are mundane moments, with no effort to explain who the victims were other than pawns in the “Biker Wars” of Montreal and environs. Every now and then one shooting gets messy or more complicated than the others, but rarely in a particularly interesting way.

We meet Gallant’s wife (Éveline Gélinas) and buy into his insistence that she didn’t know his “real” work — just that he was part of a criminal gang. And we wonder about what made his cycling paramour, Jocelyn (Bisson) take an interest in him, then an interest in his work, crossing over into “accomplice” at some point.

Picard has a bit of Bob Odenkirk in his grizzled, high-mileage visage and hangdog demeanor in this role.

But there are dramatic hazards in bringing this sort of character down to his proper level, as more contemptible than interesting, utterly dull save for this heinous thing he does for cash. Gallant is boring even when the cops finally catch him and they try to get an expansive “confession” out of him that will clear a lot of murders off their books and implicate his fellow mobsters.

This portrayal seems more accurate than riveting.

But you know what they say. It’s the dullards you really have to watch out for.

Rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Luc Picard, David La Haye, Sandrine Bisson, Éveline Gélinas and Emmanuel Charest

Credits: Directed by Luc Picard, scripted by Sylvain Guy, based on a book by Félix Séguin and Éric Thibault. A Film Movement+ release.

Running time: 1:49

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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