Hit Man

Versatile, academy award nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater (The Before… series, Boyhood, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood) and rising star Glen Powell (reuniting with Linklater after 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!!) have combined their charm to make Hit Man, a strange caper loosely adapted from the double life of college professor Gary Johnson (played by Powell).

Johnson, while content as an educator and a self-aware hermit, occupies his spare time assisting the police with stings. The dynamic changes when he’s assigned a different role that relies on performance and deception – he must pose as a hired assassin to draw out a motive and a transaction with aspiring criminals who think they’ve hired a professional killer to do their bidding. After impressing the task force (portrayed by Sanjay Rao, Austin Amelio, and comedienne Retta), Gary finds a newfound passion for playing make-believe and finding justice. When a recent mark is revealed to be an alluring and strong-willed woman in trouble, Madison (Adria Arjona), it’s love at first sight for both parties. Their rose-coloured perspectives are blind to the danger as Johnson does his best to keep his undercover integrity while also privately campaigning for her safety and her heart.

With flirtatious romance and nuanced suspense, Hit Man is the ideal date movie. The movie is also a callback to high concept star-driven comedies that are a rarity nowadays, and Powell’s charismatic presence (along with his fiery chemistry with Arjona) is the pin that holds Hit Man together in its screwball territory. 

But while Hit Man makes us grin, it doesn’t make us laugh; at least, not as often as it should. As good as Powell is as dorky Gary Johnson and as his suave alter ego that Madison confides in, the role is a cop out for Powell. Instead of leaning into Gary’s flaws and creating gags out of his high-wire act of pretending, Powell gets distracted by the glamour of playing a hero. There isn’t a problem with Powell knowing he’s an attractive man, but there’s an issue with mistaking sexiness for comedy. A montage featuring Gary and Madison caressing and grinding each other doesn’t add much to Hit Man, but a drawn-out scene featuring an uncoordinated Gary fumbling his way through foreplay could’ve not only been really funny, but it would’ve added more colour to Powell’s performance. Hit Man feels minor in comparison to Linklater’s Bernie, a similar albeit darker movie about secrets, crime, and off-kilter personalities.

As Linklater and Powell pass on opportunities to work with oddball humour and character-driven moments, we see that Hit Man is much like Gary: it boasts an edgy persona but, actually, it’s a wet noodle.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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