By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 19, 2014 at 9:05AM
It's your typical story: girl asks boy to dinner, girl proposes, boy turns her down, girl hires a hitman to kill him. Okay, maybe it's not so typical, but those are all of the necessary moving parts you need to know about Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart's "I Put A Hit On You," a lean comedy about a breakup that takes a very dark turn.
When we first meet Harper (Sara Canning), there's an energetic desperation that surrounds her, as she busily picks the right shoes to wear to the restaurant where she'll meet Ray (Aaron Ashmore) for dinner. Harper is dressed to impress, but the first sense that something is off is seen on the face of Ray as he sits down. He reminds Harper they had an awful fight, one that seems to have kept the dating couple apart for about a week now. But Harper is still all smiles, warmly welcoming, and even more, she's offered to pay for the evening's meal, keen to make up. Ray is cagey but stays, and eventually they seem to be having a fine time, until dessert arrives. On Ray's dish, Harper has arranged for a woman's engagement ring to appear, and what follows is an awkward marriage proposal, orchestrated by Harper, from Ray, on her own behalf. Needless to say, it doesn't go well, and Harper winds up back home alone.
So what does Harper do next? Presumably too embarrassed to call anyone she knows and share what happened, she proceeds to get shitfaced (as one might do after getting rejected). At some point during her drunken stupor, she logs on to Craigslist and offers up her engagement ring in exchange for someone killing Ray. But it's only when she comes to in the middle of the night that the gravity of her actions finally registers. And worse, it seems someone has taken up the offer and is on the way to off Ray. So Harper dashes to Ray's apartment—where we'll spend the rest of the movie—to admit what she's done and hopefully save his life.
From the start, even as far as the latitude that high concept comedies allow, "I Put A Hit On You" is fairly implausible. The phrase, "Why don't you just..." will be a familiar one uttered aloud by anyone watching the movie. The decisions made by Harper and Ray are sometimes baffling, and often feel inorganic, mostly to serve the needs of the plot. But on the other hand, Clark and Stewart seem acutely aware their film is slight to begin with, and the tone is appropriately lightweight. Canning and Ashmore hit the right chemistry of a couple uniting in the face of a rather absurd and dangerous situation, but still distanced by the issues in their relationship. And while it never gets quite laugh-out-loud funny, there is a low-key charm and energy to the proceedings that keeps everything breezy in the brief 80-minute film.
There's not much else to expect from "I Put A Hit On You" that you won't figure out from the logline, though a third act pause that finds Harper and Ray hashing out the problems between them tries to add some depth. It's a feeble attempt that might've worked in a movie that was perhaps a bit longer, but within the small amount of wiggle room the already lean script has, it doesn't have enough space to resonate (nor does it help that the filmmakers' views on men and women, and how they relate, are fairly conventional and stereotypical). But this isn't a film you watch for emotional resolution so much as for a quick genre exercise, and powered by a choice soundtrack featuring Young Galaxy, Rural Alberta Advantage, Deadly Snakes, Austra and Diana, the film from Clark and Stewart meets its modest ambitions. Certainly, it's all a bit ridiculous, but the filmmakers themselves seem charged with the same sort of earnest desire to please as Harper, and it's admittedly hard to resist. [C]