Hit Man movie poster

Hit Man

In theaters June 7, 2024

Rated

, ,

115 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , ,

Over 20 years ago, Skip Hollandsworth wrote an article for the little known Texas Monthly about Gary Johnson, a psychology professor turned fake hit man. Decades later, this intriguing story is brought to life in the aptly titled film Hit Man.

Glen Powell, fresh off his role in the rom-com Anyone But You, stars as Johnson, a University of New Orleans professor who secretly works with the NOPD on murder-for-hire cases. On the surface, Johnson leads a quiet, unassuming life: teaching psychology, driving a Honda Civic, and delivering cheesy lines like, “Well, I have a three-word response for that: ab-so-lutely.” With his terrible haircut, love for birding, and quiet home life with two cats, no one would suspect that Johnson spends his free time helping to catch would-be killers.

Johnson’s life changes dramatically when Jasper (Austin Amelio from The Walking Dead), his police colleague who lures criminals into confessing their desire to hire a hit man, is suspended. Thrust into Jasper’s role, Johnson quickly adapts, transforming from a perceived loser to an effective closer by recognizing that his “job is not to debunk the fantasy but become the fantasy” and assuming the identity that his targets imagine their hit man to be. As the film progresses, Johnson’s disguises grow more elaborate and humorous, making Powell almost unrecognizable in each persona. Johnson’s undercover antics will leave audiences wanting more, though director Richard Linklater recently confirmed that no personas were left on the cutting room floor.

The situation escalates when Johnson adopts the persona of Ron, the polar opposite of his mild-mannered self — imagine Powell’s Hangman character from Top Gun: Maverick. Ron’s charm is so potent that even Johnson’s male colleague jokes he would sleep with him (but never with Johnson). When Ron meets Madison (Adria Arjona from Andor), sparks fly despite her intent to hire him to kill her husband, Ray (Evan Holtzman). Johnson sees something special in Madison and tries to convince her to use the money intended for the hit to start a new life instead. This decision sets off a chain of events that complicate the lives of both characters for the rest of the film, especially after a jealous Jasper sees Johnson and Madison on a date, and Madison’s husband is later found dead.

Linklater, best known for directing Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and the Before trilogy, describes the film as having an “80’s movie feel, a new twist on old genres.” Blending comedy, romance, and action, it creates an engaging cat-and-mouse game.

This film marks another collaboration between Powell and Linklater. The director, known for his keen eye for young talent, cast Powell as a teenager and worked with him on Everybody Wants Some!! and Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age. Their strong friendship has grown over the years. Powell recently shared a humorous story on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon about meeting Matthew McConaughey, a frequent Linklater collaborator, at the director’s ranch in Texas. Upon meeting him, Powell’s father boasted about having McConaughey’s photo on his nightstand. It’s not quite what you think, but perhaps fitting with Powell possessing the swagger of McConaughey and the confidence of his former co-star Tom Cruise. It’s another reason why Powell has also emerged as Hollywood’s ‘it’ actor. Preparing for the future, Powell has a producing credit for the recently released The Blue Angels and a screenwriting credit for this film, indicating a promising future in Hollywood both on and off the screen.

While Hit Man suffers from excessive focus on Johnson’s classroom exposition and a somewhat predictable plot (except for the final 15 minutes), Powell’s charisma, Linklater’s direction, and the film’s surprising ending bring it all together, hitting its mark.

Hit Man is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

Leave a comment...