Hit Man (2024) Review

Hit Man (2024) Review

Hit Man (2024)
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriter: Richard Linklater, Glen Powell
Starring: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Austin Amelio

Despite having been on the scene for around a decade, it’s only in the past few years that Glen Powell has been recognised for having the ‘it factor’. From Top Gun: Maverick, to Anyone But You, he’s winning over both men and women with his killer charm. And with Hit Man, he strikes yet again. This time, it’s to kill. 

In his newest film, Powell has collaborated (again) with veteran director Richard Linklater, the six-time Academy Award-nominated genius behind the likes of Boyhood, School of Rock, Dazed and Confused, and The Before Trilogy. Infusing Linklater’s signature laid back style, Hit Man is a clever, dark, funny, sexy movie that plays with elements of classic police shows, romantic comedies, and thrillers, all with a knowing glance and a playful smirk. 

Hit Man, inspired by a real-life story from a 2001 Texas Monthly article, follows Gary Johnson, an inoffensive, forgettable, mild-mannered philosophy professor in New Orleans, who happens to have an interesting side-hustle: he pretends to be a hit man to help the police catch those trying to hire murderers. As Gary begins taking on more and more cases, he finds himself crafting a whole host of characters, slipping into each one with ease and delighting in his performances. However, the line between performance and reality rapidly becomes blurred when he (as alias ‘Ron’) is faced with potential client Madison (Adria Arjona), who he talks out of killing her abusive husband. Things get even more confused when Maddy and Ron find themselves enamoured by each other, and begin secretly dating. But of course, the truth always looms… 

It’s a decidedly self-assured film, knowing exactly what it wants to be and committing to it wholeheartedly. It leans into stylistic conventions of the genres it emulates with ease – there’s a montage sequence early on showing the history of hitmen in popular culture, which is a highlight. It plays with the darkness of its crime themes by juxtaposing them with the central romance. However, the way that Powell and Arjona play their relationship only serves to lean into that darkness further. 

As individuals, both are very sexy, but that sex appeal comes from different things. For Powell’s Ron (or Gary), it comes from this element of performance. He is being all the things he has never previously been able to be as a man, amplifying masculinity and dominance, whilst retaining nonchalance. As he tells us in the voiceover, “I was once told that I think too much to be a good lover. I liked Ron. He wasn’t a thinker. He was a doer.” It’s in the contrast between Gary and Ron, and how that gap slowly diminishes across the film’s runtime, that show’s Powell’s strengths as an actor. When we first meet Madison, Arjona is doe-eyed, sweet, and innocent, fearful of the idea of having her husband killed but desperate to get out of her situation. As soon as she escapes her marriage, however, she is free and wild, her large eyes transitioning to hesitance to a playfulness that draws Ron in. Arjona plays Maddy as a woman on the edge, her attraction to the perceived danger that Ron presents is what makes her attracted to him in the first place. This toxic desire is inherent to her character, and you know that at any moment, that fine line between this being a fun sensual game, and her tripping into genuine darkness, is something that could be crossed at a moment’s notice – we are constantly reminded of the position that we met her in, willing to hire an assassin. Together, their chemistry is electric, even when the toxicity of it all is deeply apparent. They are a ticking time bomb, but also a perfect bubble, and their relationship is the heart of Hit Man

While the romantic aspect is an absolute delight to watch, it’s the way that Linklater and Powell’s script wrestles with moral ambiguity that makes Hit Man truly excel. As our protagonist, we want to root for Gary, but his actions always sit in a morally grey area. From the way he sinks into his various personas as a hitman (including a pitch perfect Patrick Bateman impression), to his entire approach to Madison and the way he handles his relationship with the New Orleans Police Department (Retta, Sanjay Rao, and Austin Amelio in some very fun supporting roles), Gary is never quite as clean cut as he initially appears. Through the philosophy lessons he presents to his college students, the screenwriters lay out the fundamental principles of ethics that they want us to consider here, but through their actual execution in the narrative, we ourselves are drawn into the mirage of supporting the things that we know aren’t right. It’s a fascinating look into the human psyche, and just how far we’ll go to protect the ideal life we yearn for, and the ones we love.

Hit Man never lets its philosophical musings get in the way of this being a riotous time, however. If anything, as the plot twists and turns, and our leads make unexpected choices, it only serves to make the whole thing even more thrilling, and ever more watchable. It’s a balance that is held perfectly within the hands of Richard Linklater’s direction, and something he has demonstrated throughout his filmography. It’s also a balance that may not have been achieved alongside anyone other than Glen Powell. Powell’s public persona is that of the family man with a goofy capybara smile, of an effortless warmth that genuinely draws people in. And it’s this all-round nice guy image that he both reinforces and deconstructs in this career-defining performance. 

If this is truly going to be the Summer of Glen, then Hit Man is a great symbol for what’s to come. 

Score: 21/24

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Rehana Nurmahi

You can support Rehana Nurmahi at the following links:

Twitter – @Han_notsolo
Letterboxd – hana_banana97
Portfolio – Authory

Scroll to Top