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Hit Man (2024)

HIT MAN (2024) is on the more crowdpleasing side of Richard Linklater movies, a sort of comedy, sort of romance, sort of noir, sort of true story that’s good enough to sort of make me forgive the “based on a true story… sort of” disclaimer and related dad joke vibes. For me it doesn’t quite live up to the hype from the Toronto International Film Festival, where it apparently blew the roof off, but it’s definitely worth watching if you already get Netflix, where it ended up.

This is really a star vehicle for Glen Powell, an Austinite who worked with Linklater in FAST FOOD NATION, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! and APOLLO 10 1/2 (an animated/rotoscoped movie that’s also on Netflix, and quite good) before blowing up in TOP GUN: MAVERICK and ANYONE BUT YOU. Now the two of them teamed up to co-write and co-produce this showcase for Powell doing more than just his usual cocky hunky guy thing (but also that). He plays Gary Johnson, a New Orleans psychology professor who lives alone with two cats, enjoys bird watching, and tucks his polo shirts into his cargo shorts. He’s a dabbler who moonlights as a tech guy for the police, recording undercover stings busting people who were asking around about putting a hit out on somebody. When Jasper (Austin Amelio, The Walking Dead) is suspended for excessive force, Gary is pushed into playing the hitman, digs deep to create a macho character, and turns out to be very good at it.

Part of the joke is that “hit men” are a Hollywood invention, there’s no true way to portray one and as a psychologist he gets really into researching the targets and creating different characters he thinks they’d want to be their hitman. So Powell gets to use different costumes and accents and portray different characters, at times looking like a Tim Heideker character, or seeming to imitate Matthew McConaghey or Tilda Swinton. So there’s lots of comedy there, but he also starts to self-actualize, because he likes being the fake self-assured version of himself, even if it involves a fantasy of being a master killer and disposer of bodies. He’s not actually doing that stuff, but why not be that guy for a while?

The romance comes in when Gary under the guise of “Ron” meets with potential client Madison Figueroa (Adria Arjona, TRIPLE FRONTIER, 6 UNDERGROUND, MORBIUS), and they immediately hit it off like it’s a really good first date. To the frustration of his colleagues instead of taking her money he encourages her to use it to move away from her jerk husband and start a new life. She takes his advice, calls to thank him after she settles in, and he falls into a relationship with her, pretending to be Ron. Just a little bit off from the standard romcom charades.

Then the noir comes in when her husband Ray (Evan Holtzman, HIDDEN FIGURES) gets jealous and Jasper, still sore that Gary took over his job, becomes suspicious of the strange things he’s doing to cover up his double life. As Gary tries to cover up his lies to both Madison and his co-workers he gets involved in more dangerous deceptions and actual crimes.

It crawls into these dark places, both for laughs and for some pretty effective discomfort. It subverts its own romance story, getting us to like Madison and want her to like Gary but we can’t help but notice that she’s attracted to him despite – or more likely because of – believing he’s a professional killer, so that’s a problem. It’s a relief when everything’s cleared up and somehow turns out okay, but it feels like a cheat. That’s where it wobbles for me. It was going somewhere interesting only to say “nah, don’t worry, that was all fake.”

The movie was inspired by a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, same thing that happened with Linklater’s BERNIE, although in that case he had Hollandsworth do the adaptation with him, and discouraged him from fictionalizing. For this one he took a different approach.

According to the article, the real Gary Johnson grew up in Lousiana, but he ended up in Houston. He did have two cats, but was into goldfish instead of birds. He did teach two courses at a community college (human sexuality and general psychology) and have an ex-wife he was still friends with. A teenager did pay him for a hit with loose change and video games, but it was so long ago they were Atari cartridges. “All pie is good pie,” which weirdly seems to be his motto in the movie, was his code for clients to identify him. And at the end of the article it does tell about a time when he felt sorry for the suspect because she was being abused. Instead of doing the sting operation at all he helped set her up with social services and a women’s shelter.

So basically they just took the idea of this type of nerd doing this type of job, and sprung off of the last part to turn it into a romance. Like many movies based on magazine articles it’s sort of at war with itself, because the thing that makes it interesting in the first place is the reality that separates it from regular movies, but the thing it ends up emphasizing is the bullshit they threw in to make it play as a regular movie. Maybe that’s my own hangup, though. ARGO won best picture. People worship PAIN & GAIN. Most people don’t care. And HIT MAN, both the article and the movie, are interesting in their own ways.

The thing we all agree on is that Powell is an exciting actor and should get more vehicles like this to do his thing, whatever that turns out to be. He’s a hunk playing a nerd playing a hunk, and it works, so there’s probly something there. I never saw it coming but somehow Powell has pulled ahead of Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey for the coveted title of Most Promising Young Expendable From EXPENDABLES 3.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 11th, 2024 at 7:21 am and is filed under Reviews, Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Hit Man (2024)”

  1. I liked this one a lot. Most of that is down to the two leads having great chemistry and doing a good job. It was a lot of fun to see Powell in the various roles. Not just the hitman, but also the nerd/professor, which while it’s not 100% believable that a guy that hot would be that nerdy, it works. And I thought she did a great job at playing the “crazy but hot” woman. A lot of those roles are too much, too annoying in their crazy, but she was believably someone you’d let that slide with. By the way, Vern, he’s a psychology AND philosophy professor. I’m only being pedantic about it because I liked the philosophy stuff he talked about in his classes. I found all the psych/philosophy stuff interesting.

    I’m okay with the stuff at the end that Vern didn’t like and that’s two fold.

    SPOILERS





    1 – I think of it like it’s this movie’s version of the bus on SPEED making that jump. Yeah, it’s probably not going to go like that in real life, but I like it so I’m going to go with it.

    2 – I’m fascinated by this idea that they could do these horrible, morally reprehensible things they had to do to survive (in their minds at the least) and be just fine with it. It doesn’t mean that they become murderous villains who turn to violence to solve all their problems. I guess one could make the argument that we don’t know that. Maybe they are out committing murder willie nillie, but I don’t think the movie is saying that’s what happened. Also, I think we can definitely say the movie is saying that they are happy. This means they aren’t tormented by their actions. They just got on with their lives, doing what they could to thrive and be happy. Perhaps he’s a stabilizing influence on her and she influences him to be more bold and messy and take chances, so they self actualized themselves into the people that make themselves and each other happy. I think that’s interesting.

  2. I’m not sure I get Glen Powell. He works in small doses but I haven’t seen anything that would make me want to spend an entire with him. He feels like an alternate universe Ted McGinley who got promoted from yuppie jock villains and season-six replacement sidekicks to actual leading man without changing any of his highly punchable qualities. I think that says something about where we’re at as a society.

    Is it an ab thing? Because I was under the impression that ever since Toby McGuire took off his shirt in SPIDER-MAN 1, every actor in Hollywood is legally required to have abs. You can apply for a Chubby Comic Relief Exception but I believe those are hard to come by. They handed out too many in the years following Jack Black’s ascension to male lead and now they’ve made the application process really prohibitive.

  3. I thought this was ok but coasted on Powell’s charm. It’s a nice showcase for him as a performer and made me think he would make a great FLETCH but the movie didn’t need to be 2 hours long. It meandered in the middle before arriving at a conclusion I found underwhelming for the reasons you highlighted in your review.

  4. burningambulance

    June 11th, 2024 at 10:27 am

    >>I’m not sure I get Glen Powell. He works in small doses but I haven’t seen anything that would make me want to spend an entire with him. He feels like an alternate universe Ted McGinley who got promoted from yuppie jock villains and season-six replacement sidekicks to actual leading man without changing any of his highly punchable qualities. I think that says something about where we’re at as a society.

    Yeah, I keep looking at this guy and thinking, “This is the hottest, most charming-est actor on Earth [according to the ever-credulous movie press]? THIS GUY?”

  5. MaggieMayPie, I think the movie explicitly stated it’s stance on “justified killing” in Powell’s discussion with his class.

  6. Holup, this is a Netflix movie? I saw the trailer before FURIOSA and thought it was a theatrical release, especially considering that the trailers for other Netflixflicks were shown in a lower quality than the other trailers (Which surely was not done by the movie theatre on purpose, to make these movies inferior to the ones that were made for theatres.)

    And Glen Powell…I have no idea who that is. According to IMDb he was in a few things that I actually watched but…I don’t remember him. So I just sit here and let you discuss this man’s value. I don’t have a horse in this bone or however that saying goes.

  7. Charles, yes, I agree. It takes it from theory to practice for Gary pretty seamlessly.

  8. Wait. When was Ted McGinley the lead in something bigger than FROZEN IMPACT?

    Not to say the point isn’t valid, I just think you misspelled Taylor Kitsch or something.

  9. He wasn’t. Dat’s da joke.

  10. I enjoyed this movie, although when it was all over it seemed somewhat slight. It felt like there should have been a bigger final act. But at the same time, sometimes I enjoy a film that’s just a bit subdued. I also think that what works in the film comes down to the chemistry between the leads and a smart screenplay. But as a director, Linklater seems kind of absent. He’s not known as an extreme visual stylist, but while the themes of the screenplay tell you this is absolutely a Linklater movie, visually it felt very much like a TV show.

    I’m glad that Vern mentioned Bernie, because it also reminded me of that movie. But there Linklater does a lot of fun stuff like mixing in real people from the town with actors to give it a documentary feel. For me, Bernie is one of Linklater’s most underrated film. Meanwhile, Hit Man is just “pretty good.” Although, I’m not going to dismiss a pretty good film. You want to watch those now and again.

  11. I’m of both minds about it. I think Glen Powell has spent probably a decade fading into the wallpaper in a series of forgettable movies. I also think he was… interesting?… in this movie, particularly veering into the various comic personas. As a college professor, physically he’s a bit unlikely (he obviously has a Hollywood Physique that many leading men his age have in hopes of scoring a comic book role), but once he got into theory, I bought it.

    Which goes for the rest of the movie too. I bought it. Not particularly memorable, but convincing. I think the end gets into this split road where it’s like, we can stick to the real story, or we can get really big and silly with it — didn’t care for the middle ground they selected. And Vern is right about this movie’s “Dad humor”. This movie is never funnier than a small chuckle every few scenes and most of that comes from those wacky disguises (particularly Powell’s Patrick Batemen impersonation).

    I don’t like these movies going to Netflix, but this would have played to dead silence in the theater.

  12. This did get a limited theater release. It didn’t play in the Seattle area, but I know people in the DC and NY area who saw it in the theater.

    Powell has been around since he was a kid, but the first time I took note of him was in HIDDEN FIGURES. It might just be that he was playing All American Golden Boy Astronaut Hero, but I thought, “Well, there’s a movie star,” and just sat back to wait for it to happen and it seems like now is his time. I like him quite a bit. I think he’s got charm that could either go smarmy and punchable or funny and engaging.

  13. I kinda loved this movie but I think it was mainly because I was so tickled by how much it bucked the expectations I had going into it.

    I was down to give Glen Powell another chance in a different sort of role after I found him completely reptillian and basically movie-ruining in ANYONE BUT YOU (I’ve seen other movies he’s in but never took notice of him specifically). So then when people were raving about him appearing in a movie called Hit Man, it felt like much more appropriate to his vibe.

    Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be another romcom, and that I actually liked him in it!

    I didn’t have the same issues other have because to me this was not something I could conceptually take seriously at any point. It just seemed like an opportunity to have a lot of fun with a concept that was, on its face, thoroughly absurd.

    Like, if contract killers don’t exist, why the fuck is it necessary for the police to set up an entrapment operation tricking people into thinking they do?? Fuckin cops, man.

    Took me back to the late 90s when imitating Tarantino meant “criminals are likeable and cool”, like The Big Hit or something. I also made have caused Mrs. Renfield to become a little annoyed with how much I fell in love with Madison.

  14. “I never saw it coming but somehow Powell has pulled ahead of Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey for the coveted title of Most Promising Young Expendable From EXPENDABLES 3.”

    Haha..for a minute there I thought Vern forgot about EX3, which is where I first made the acquaintance of Mr.Powell. Yeah, imagine that within the gang of non-entities Stallone chose to work with while sidelining his veterans, it’s the blandest one with seemingly ZERO action chops (I mean, Ortiz and Rousey were actual fighters while Lutz at least had a couple of C-Grade DTV actioners under his belt) who’s now 1 photo shoot away from getting tagged as ‘SEXIEST MAN ALIVE 2024’ in Variety or some other glam mag. He was also one of the kids in SPY KIDS 3 where Stallone was the villain.

    I don’t mind Powell but like Mr.Maj, I’m equally bemused by his sudden elevation although it’s not that surprising. TOP GUN MAVERICK really gave him a huge boost and the success of the moderately entertaining ANYONE BUT YOU elevated him to Leading Man material and with Brad Pitt aging, I guess Hollywood always has room for another good looking, blonde haired hunky leading man. I mean, there’s only so many tentpoles Chris Hemsworth and Pratt can sign up for. But I’m yet to grasp that “X Factor” that elevates the one in ten thousand of these super-ripped, good looking guys from “hunky extra in TV Movie” to Lead in Upcoming Summer Tentpole TWISTERS. I think someone like Channing Tatum is far more interesting in the shades he gives his otherwise goofy hunk with the stripper bod persona (what the hell happened to him anyway?)

    As for the movie, I liked it while acknowledging that this is lesser Linklater. As someone who loves his BEFORE trilogy to death, I think he’s still at his actual best when he puts a couple with great chemistry together on screen and just has them talking.

    SPOILER

    I was only slightly taken aback when the movie glosses over how cold-bloodedly it’s revealed that Madison killed her ex. Yes, he’s clearly depicted as an entitled douchebag, abuser and all round asshole, but the way I read it, all she had to know from Gary was that her ex planned to hire a hitman to off her, and she just takes her gun, most likely drugged him (maybe?) and killed him, and that’s fine with Gary (Or it’s most likely The Power of a Boner at play here). I thought this is where the movie would really go into Noir territory as Madison is revealed as this Femme Fatale who’s been manipulating events from the get go, but they went the safe, warm and cuddly rom com route complete with “marriage and kids” ending.

  15. burningambulance

    June 11th, 2024 at 7:19 pm

    Watched this tonight and it just did not work for me on any level. Powell is neither hot nor charming, every one of his “hit man” personas is on the level of a Saturday Night Live “famous actors audition for a famous movie they weren’t in” sketch, and the script is weak from beginning to end but *completely* falls apart in the final stretch. I’m actually kinda mad I watched it.

  16. I liked Pain & Gain too but people worship it?

  17. Okay, I guess that’s just in the specific circle of my Action Twitter/Baytriot friends. They think that movie is a masterpiece.

  18. burningambulance

    June 12th, 2024 at 12:01 pm

    PAIN & GAIN isn’t a masterpiece — it’s a Michael Bay movie — but catch me on the right day and I’ll tell you it’s my favorite Michael Bay movie. It’s definitely one of Rock Johnson’s best performances (really, the only way to make an argument for him as an *actor* as opposed to a *person who appears in movies* is to talk about P&G and/or SNITCH).

  19. Are we all glossing over how frickin fantastic Adria Arjona is in this movie? Like, holy cow. And it isn’t just because she is smoldering the entire film (she is). I thought she was fantastic in some of the scenes that required heavy lifting (the scene with the phone), but also their date at the dance club/ice cream joint.

  20. JeffG, seconded, she’s amazing (particularly the phone one you mentioned) and elevates the whole movie as soon as she arrives. Great performance.

  21. burningambulance, I’d throw Southland Tales out as being up there among Rock Johnson’s best performances. It’s just about the ONLY thing I’d throw Southland Tales out there for, tho, even if I seem to enjoy it slightly more that most.

  22. I really liked this one. Yeah, i agree with how the dark turn at the end is kinda treated a little too lightly, but it fit the film and didn’t feel unearned.

    Powell is at his best with Linklater. Something comes out of him and I thought he got to show a bunch if range in all the characters. And he comes off normal and likable in this and Everybody Wants Some!! (The wife and I popped it on after Hit Man and just fell into his easy charm. Also, Jasper is in that too!)

    Im on board team Powell especially if Linklater is on board, but now I’m almost excited to see Twisters in theaters.

  23. This did get a limited theater release. It didn’t play in the Seattle area, but I know people in the DC and NY area who saw it in the theater.

    It ran on Screen 1 at Thornton Place for a week or two – there were some mild murmurs of laughter, but I think it would have played warmer in a closer room.

  24. grimgrinningchris

    June 21st, 2024 at 2:26 am

    Great Pensacola reference in this one, which always gives me a charge.

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