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“Dusk for a Hitman” Mostly Hits Target

Written by: Matt Patti | April 18th, 2024

Dusk for a Hitman (Raymond St-Jean, 2023) 3 out of 5 stars

The hitman phenomenon keeps on churning as more and more films involving assassins come out year after year. Audiences can’t seem to get enough of taking an inside look into one of the vilest professions in the world. While many of these films follow a similar plot, there are a select few that throw in some intriguing added wrinkles.

There is one concept in particular that has intrigued me surrounding this genre for quite some time: the thought of a hitman having to do his work by eliminating the person closest to them. In fact, this one idea was so fascinating to me that I even wrote a synopsis for such a potential movie while in film school. This would never see the light of day, at least not from me. However, director Raymond St-Jean’s Dusk for a Hitman does indeed bring a version of this idea to life.

Éric Bruneau in DUSK FOR A HITMAN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

The film, based on a true story, involves notorious hitman Donald Lavoie (Éric Bruneau, Danger Below Deck), one of the most feared individuals and the best assassin in the Montreal underground of the 1970s. Lavoie is completely loyal to his boss, Claude Dubois (Benoît Gouin, Les tricheurs). A cold-blooded killer, Lavoie never has feelings of remorse. However, he is not completely void of connection, as he has a wife and daughter back home and a brother who keeps him tied to this world. After delivering many hits and even serving prison time for Dubois, one day Lavoie is asked to do the unthinkable: take out his own flesh and blood. Lavoie has had no issue killing off partners before, but would he be able to take the life of his own brother?

The aforementioned open-ended question is definitely what drew me into this film to check it out, however, it is only a small piece of a much larger, intricate web. The film features many different points and aspects of Lavoie’s life. Bruneau portrays the complex character quite well. A man that has so little care for human life yet has so much to lose, Lavoie is naturally an intriguing subject as the centerpiece of the narrative.

Benoit Gouin in DUSK FOR A HITMAN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Dusk for a Hitman showcases the duality of Lavoie’s life to great effect, combining tense moments in his line of work with engaging dramatic elements in Lavoie’s relation to family. At times, Lavoie seems like the most ruthless, heartless person, often killing people on the spot when they annoy him. Then, we get to see how he interacts with those closest to him and the personal dilemmas he has to face outside of his occupation.

It is that duality that makes the film. The viewer is engaged for action set pieces and tough conversations alike. Suspense is achieved through many means here. The suspense does loosen a good bit near the end of the runtime, however.

l-r: Éric Bruneau and Rose-Marie Perreault in DUSK FOR A HITMAN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

The final act of the film is sadly the weakest, which is never a great way to end things. The plot loses some steam and the tension dissipates. Most disappointingly, the dilemma of whether Lavoie should kill his brother or not is only very briefly explored when it could have been delved into much more deeply. Characters begin to make very questionable decisions near the end that also leave a bit of a sour note in the audience’s mouth.

I must note that, though there are clearly issues I’ve listed with the film, I can’t necessarily point out how those issues could be resolved. Again, this film is based on a true story, and perhaps St-Jean (A Chair Fit for an Angel) did not want to spruce it up too much. Therefore, even though the final third involves strange decisions and less intensity, I can understand if this was done because this is what actually transpired in real life.

Simon Landry-Desy in DUSK FOR A HITMAN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Overall, Dusk for a Hitman does just enough to satisfy. There are many compelling scenarios, though not all are explored to their full capabilities. In the end, though, the filmmakers do a fine job of presenting a true story that grips the audience and is suspenseful and intriguing in both physical and emotional capacities.


Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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