Consider the idea that the most unassuming person in your friend circle may have, in fact, killed the most people. That’s the story of Quebecer hitman Gérald Gallant in Luc Picard’s biopic, Confessions of a Hitman. Gérald Gallant (Luc Picard) was one of the most prolific hitmen in Quebec. From 1978-2003, he murdered 28 people and almost killed 12 more as a hired gun during the Quebec Biker Wars. The war pitted Gallant’s Rock Machine in a turf war against Quebec’s version of the Hell’s Angels.
While we get a taste of the overall war, the film focuses on the story of Gallant, the man, the killer. No, he wasn’t a smooth, good-looking John Wick kind of character. Instead, he was something of a schlub. Gallant had mommy issues, exacerbated by a stuttering problem, which he brought into adulthood. Nevertheless, he was kind, cared deeply for his friend, and was somewhat of a sweet person. His problem is he hung around with the wrong people in the Rock Machine Biker Gang and, eventually, the Montreal Mafia.
The story underneath Confessions of a Hitman balances Gallant’s killing and the man ultimately done in by the relationships he forms along the way. Unlike horror films, mafia movies take place outside in the open, and their victims are taken out like a military surgical strike, with a few innocent casualties.
I’m a big fan of mafia and mob movies. Director and star Picard takes us along for some of Gallant’s more interesting assassinations, which start with big title cards offering location and the numbered kill. Where Confessions of a Hitman succeeds is in being a character study. Again, Gallant is not what you think of as a killer. He lives in a small suburban home with his wife Pauline (Éveline Gélinas), who doesn’t exactly know what her husband does but knows he’s with the wrong people.
“From 1978-2003, he murdered 28 people and almost killed 12 more as a hired gun during the Quebec Biker Wars.”
As Gallant’s relationship expands, it soon leaves him open to mistakes. One is the boyfriend of his partner, Dolly Lemaire (David La Haye). When the boyfriend, Carlo (Dany Boudreault), needs to be “offed,” Gallant chases him through the forest and lets him go. Then there’s Gallant’s mistress, Jocelyne (Sandrine Bisson), who figures out his true profession and wants to be involved, mostly for the thrill.
Rather than be the stereotypical stone-cold killer, Gallant wrestles with his life choices. He becomes concerned with the safety of those close to him, along with the deadly nature of his profession. Because this is a true story, we know Gallant’s fate from the start. The film opens with Gallant being interrogated for his crimes, wrestling with the need to protect his friends, particularly Jocelyne.
Throughout the film, I’m reminded of the other Quebec mob war movie I reviewed, Mafia Inc.. Films like this will always fall short compared to the quintessential mafia movies, The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2. It’s clearly unfair, but this movie moves on admirably. Confessions of a Hitman has a much lower budget (also unfair), and it shows, but the production goes simple rather than trying to overcomplicate itself, which works. Considering it’s a 1980s period piece, the sets, though simple, look accurate to the times.
And most importantly, Picard’s portrayal of Gallant trumps any shortcomings the film has. What sets apart Confessions of a Hitman from other assassin movies is his portrayal of Gérald Gallant. Part of me wants to believe this is how real assassins lived their lives, not as soulless sociopaths but as men who struggle with their professions. Picard brings a level of humanity to the role that I think we can find relatable… for a killer.
Confessions of a Hitman can be found now on Film Movement Plus.
"…balances Gallant's killing and the man ultimately done in by the relationships he forms along the way."