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By Rory L. Aronsky | May 7, 2005

“Hit Me” makes money schemes fresh again beginning with Dan Selig (Max Herholz) who hates his job, which consists of calculating changes to cereals that would affect the numbers on the ingredient labels. He’s an out-and-out math whiz and almost makes number-crunching look irresistibly cool. When he’s at the office, facing down a moronic boss who should have a coffee mug welded to his hand, consider him at first to be the hard-a*s cousin of Peter Gibbons in “Office Space”. It comes to that he just sits with his feet on his desk, thumbing through an L.A. Weekly and calling a “900” number just to talk to the girl on the line about how his job sucks, how it’s the same routine over and over, how nothing changes except the numbers.

Dan embodies the dissatisfaction felt by millions of people across the country. But unlike those with mortgages, families, cars and shopping trips, he simply drifts along in his existence, coming to what may be a more satisfying job led by Alicia (Camden Brady), a blonde with a Vegas money scheme that involves counting the cards while playing blackjack, an act that’s not treated with dinner and a show. She recruits Dan because of his skills with numbers and also brings along Thomas (Kofi Natei), who learns the same methods as Dan but looks a little shady despite his friendly nature.

In fact, the main strength of “Hit Me” is its ability to play around with an audience. Max Herholz is one face who should not be forgotten. His looks and his acting talents show that he could take on any character in any location, short of a Buddhist monk atop the Himalayas. Dan’s thoughts turn from good money loving to worry over the score going sour while in Vegas and Herholz doesn’t even bite his lip over the concern. He’s that cool, that calm, that actor needed so desperately in other indie films. His co-star, Kofei Natei is a marvel, a miracle. He has that right kind of cowboy sensibility, friendly toward Dan, but there’s also something smelly about him, such as when he isn’t a part of Dan’s training, which includes a drill and no Laurence Olivier. Natei and Selig make an ace pair and they have such chemistry together that it feels as if it’s not only their characters getting along with each other. For sexiness, turn no further to women than Camden Brady. She’s a more down-to-business blonde Maria Bello, but also adds her own edge, determined to get this money before computerized card shuffling machines change blackjack at the Lady Luck Casino. You end up wondering whether she’s just a petulant rich brat playing this for fun or has some other motive that’s hidden from us until the end of the movie.

The end isn’t quite agreeable, as Kinney reaches hard for an unsentimental ending. Dan is humanized to us by way of a visit with his father who hasn’t done much in his life since his wife and Dan’s mother died and he sees the scheme not only as a way to actually do a job that isn’t crap, but also a way to give his father enough money so that maybe he can find a new life that suits him better than one watching old film reels. The twists do happen at the end and it’s an unusual lot, but for all the money that could ever be garnered by some money scheme, I wouldn’t give up all the pleasure derived from “Hit Me” for that. This is a wonderfully fresh spin on the film noir genre, having Dan get into this scheme by way of utter boredom than just something to do to prove himself or be allured by a sexy woman. Dan is taken by Alicia, but why live life if you’re dead in your office job? This is witty, gritty, and full of smarts.

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