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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

Richard Linklater & Glen Powell re-team for a great and sexy crime romp that would've "killed" in theaters (I saw it in a packed one) but will still be a huge hit on Netflix (available to stream now).

By Nate Lemann

Glen Powell in "Hit Man"
Glen Powell in "Hit Man"

Glenn Powell has got to be one of the more savvy movie stars we have today. He has avoided the modern pitfalls of the 21st century movie star trajectory, instead opting to go the traditional ‘90s star route of small films built around his charismatic persona, balanced with larger studio fare where he can elevate mid-tier blockbusters into must-see movie events.

Powell here decided to create his own opportunity, reuniting again with director Richard Linklater to co-write and star in this quirky, slice-of-life crime caper that Linklater seems to really excel at (see 2011’s excellent “Bernie”). Powell plays a nerdy and simple philosophy professor named Gary Johnson (in what will be Powell’s least convincing “character” in the film). Powell in these early scenes is giving off Mark Wahlberg in “The Gambler” vibes here, where its extremely hard to believe that anyone in his class or who works with can’t see the stud that Powell is just because he is wearing glasses, hunches a little, and has a nerdy bangs haircut. The man just has too much natural charisma to play that kind of a role. 

Gary also moonlights as a sound technician for the police as they run sting operations on folks looking to hire a hit man to “take care of” their problems. What Linklater and Powell correctly point out here is that there is no such thing as a hit man for hire. That is in truth a movie invented profession but dumb or desperate folks in New Orleans still believe that to be the case and get in touch with the NOPD’s resident undercover hit man, Jasper (an excellent Austin Amelio; more on him later). When Jasper is suspended for what sounds like a horrible police brutality charge, the team is forced to throw Gary into his place at the last minute. What they (including Gary himself) are surprised to find is that Gary is actually quite good at this undercover work.

Once Gary has gotten a taste for the work, he becomes the new go-to undercover operative. The philosophy professor in him wants to explore how the act of pretending to be someone else can potentially change a person. If he’s being honest with himself, though, Gary is having a hell of a time pretending to be a wide-array of different kinds of hit men, from the redneck to the calculating and fastidious Hannibal Lector variety. His greatest role may be “Ron”, the most movie star version and closest to the Glenn Powell we all know and love. 

When “Ron” is contacted by the beautiful but desperate Maddy (played to perfection by the revelatory Adria Arjona) to take out her abusive husband, he has sympathy for this woman in crisis and advises her to not go down this route. The chemistry between these two leads pulsates off the screen and once Maddy decides she wants to keep seeing “Ron”, Linklater directs some of the most steamy sex scenes seen in quite sometime (far sexier than the over-hyped sexual romp “Challengers” was marketed as). Arjona is really a breakout here, matching Powell’s charisma with a potent sexual energy, while never sacrificing the character’s complex inner life or vulnerability. 

The rest of the cast is great here, with the other major standout being fellow frequent Linklater collaborator Amelio, who is a wild-card in every sense of the word and has a wonderful supportive but also antagonistic relationship with Gary. When he’s on screen, you feel anything is possible in the most fun and charged sense. The other standouts (aside from Powell’s fun and wide-ranging hit men characters) are the dopes that fall prey to this sting operation. It really is reminiscent of “Bernie” in how all off these characters feel so desperate and believably stupid in the most funny ways. Only Linklater has that prowess to capture something so real and human, finding the humor it without losing sight of the flawed humans they truly are.

As for the script, it definitely has some third act problems and stretches credulity on many occasions. That said, the plot almost feels beside the point here as what the two writers feel like they are truly chasing a vibe vs. a precision plotted thriller. While I was fortunate to see this in a theater, I think this will still play well at home on Netflix. That said, it feels like a missed opportunity that this won’t be coming to a wider audience in theaters. This feels like it could’ve been the modestly priced blockbuster that goes an epic box office run to revitalize the theater-going experience. Either way, catch this any way can; you’re in for a great time!


FINAL RATING: 4/5 Stars (Must-Watch)

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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