Similar to the central relationship at its core, I Put a Hit on You is not all it appears to be on the surface. The films wears the garments of a screwball romantic comedy, complete with an outlandish premise, but aims for something leaner and more resonating. The fear of the unknown may be the source of the film’s dark humour, but it is the the things that go unsaid in relationships that truly makes it tick.
After a series of nuanced short films, including the wonderful Long Branch, filmmakers Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart focus their lens on a couple whose happy relationship turns out to be anything but. Like most couples, Harper (Sara Canning) and Ray’s (Aaron Ashmore) two and a half year relationship has had its occasional rough patches – including a rather heated tiff recently. Things take a sharp turn one night when Harper uses a romantic dinner out to surprise Ray with a marriage proposal…complete with an engagement ring for him to put on her finger. Taken aback, and slightly offended by the gesture, Ray rejects the ill-timed proposal and ultimately sends Harper into a spiral.
Drowning her emotionally wounded ego in alcohol, Harper does what any good drunk would do…attempt to get rid of the engagement ring on Craigslist. However, instead of selling it she offers to trade the ring in exchange for someone killing Ray. Awakened from her alcoholic fog a few hours later, Harper is shocked to find out that not only has someone taken her up on her offer, but has promised to have Ray disposed of by morning. Reluctant at first to believe the situation at hand, Ray’s begins to take the impending danger seriously when it becomes clear that Harper was a little too generous with the information she shared online.
Managing to make its grand concept feel intimate and humorous at the same time, I Put a Hit on You does a solid job of avoiding many of the conventions that plague typical romantic comedies. The film draws many laughs from the inept ways Harper and Ray try to avoid, and outsmart, a killer who they know absolutely nothing about. Of course the biggest joke in the film is that the killer is not that important at all. What Harper and Ray should really fear is the growing claustrophobic nature of their relationship.
It is no mistake that the bulk of the film takes place in Ray’s tiny apartment. A dwelling where they can no longer hide from the many things left unsaid. Similar to a stew left to simmer on the fire for far too long, the secrets and resentments they have been withholding are subtly searing their relationship away.
The key to unlocking the charm of I Put a Hit on You is in realizing that the mystery of the killer is not really a mystery at all. The sharp screenplay is more interested in the triggers, often discovered to late, that erode relationships. If there is one area where the film falters a bit it is in its heavy reliance on the unseen masked killer trope to generate laughs. Considering the brisk running time, and the economical way that Clark and Stewart craft their narrative, it would have been nice to see Harper and Ray’s complex non-killer related dynamic explored even further. These are characters that, regardless of their foibles, are interesting and relatable enough to keep the viewers invested.
Normally romantic comedies suffer from being longer than needed, but this film is different. An extra fifteen or twenty minutes would only help to make the film even stronger. While Clark and Stewart’s witty dialogue, and the film’s crisp cinematography, play a big role in I Put a Hit on You’s charm, a lot of credit must go to Sara Canning and Aaron Ashmore. The pair – especially Canning who has the tough task of keeping Harper grounded despite her “only in the movies” style blunders – do a wonderful job of bringing added layers to the role. Their chemistry is undeniable and only helps enhance both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film even further.
I Put a Hit on You is a delightfully charming romantic comedy that captures the nuances of an unravelling relationships in a witty and wildly original way. Though the film never quite reaches the emotional depth it occasionally flirts with, Clark and Stewart are clearly comfortable playing in a bigger sandbox.
I Put a Hit on You begins its exclusive run at The Royal tomorrow night.