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That kind of open-ended definition can mean one of two things: The film is either a work of art that’s beyond definition, or it’s just unfocused. The case with Hits, unfortunately, is the latter.
Hits, which uses a small-town setting to deconstruct the nature of fame in our Internet age, comes with the honesty of an auteur doing exactly what they want to do, as well as the trappings associated with it. As seen with the Star Wars prequels, sometimes it’s best if one person doesn’t have too much control and ideas are shot down or reworked during a film’s creation.
With more time spent on the screenplay and in the editing bay, this could have been brilliant satire. As it stands, each scene is at least 30 percent too long, and the narrative leaves you constantly forgetting what’s going on. It’s not a good sign when you’re repeatedly thinking, “Oh yeah, this character’s involved.”
The rub: You’re usually happy to remember a character’s involved, because they’re all fantastic and especially noteworthy when they’re manifestations of Cross’s deepest loathing. James Adomian’s hipster caricature, Donovan, is the sort of character Cross himself might portray—someone convinced they’re fighting for social good, but in reality they’re a clueless, self-serving manchild too steeped in irony to successfully utilize anything resembling logic. It’s a fantastic character that, on its own, could probably carry an entire film. Honestly, most of these characters could probably carry entire films, and Hits seems frustrated with having to balance them all.
That’s not to say every character is a caricature. Katelyn (Meredith Hagner), a teen obsessed with obtaining fame, is played with surprising sympathy. Dave (Matt Walsh), a political extremist and chronic pain-in-the-ass for his local city council, is the sort of person Cross would mercilessly scathe during a standup routine, but he’s explored with depth and understanding here. Indeed, unlike his standup, watching Hits allows you to build a fairly nuanced hierarchy of who/what annoys Cross the most in the this world. Hipsters are certainly at the top of that list, while others come with some caveats.
Despite great characters and performances across the board, Hits still suffers from being a mess on a narrative level. The ending is a fantastic bit of satirical glee, but the journey there could have easily lost 20 or 30 minutes and a few subplots. While great, some of these characters—like Amy Sedaris as a bar owner/former winner of a television talent show—simply don’t need to be here. When your movie makes the Hobbit trilogy look like a lean piece of filmmaking, there’s a problem.
If you’re a fan of satire or David Cross, Hits is certainly worth a watch, especially with the pay-what-you-want deal. Here’s hoping Cross’s next film smoothes out the edges: Hits misses the mark, but there’s evidence he’s capable of something great.
Screengrab via moviemaniacsDE/YouTube
Joey Keeton is an entertainment writer who reviewed streaming movies, comedies, and TV series for the Daily Dot. He's also written about podcasts, bizarre web culture, and politics.