Review: Hit Man | Sundance 2024

Score: B+

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio

Running Time: 115 min

Rated: R

Movie star charm can be a rare find these days. Stars can show up on your screen and you know you’re ready to laugh and have some fun. Well, move over Ryan Reynolds because you’ve got some charming competition. In Richard Linklater’s new film, Hit Man, Glen Powell continues to make his case that not only can he have chemistry with literally anyone, but he’s determined to bring some fun back to the movies.

Powell plays buttoned-up New Orleans professor Gary Johnson, a philosophy professor by day and fake hitman by night. Enlisted by the New Orleans police department to play a hitman for sting operations, Gary Johnson trades his dad shorts and tucked-in polos for costumes, using psychology to create the perfect hitman for each case. That is, until one stunning client (Adria Arjona) steals his heart, forcing him to deepen the ruse and ask himself who he truly is.

The script, loosely based on a Texas Monthly article, was co-written by Linklater and Powell, reunited after Powell’s role in 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! The two are having fun and leaning into the silliness like any good comedy. There are certainly noir elements, particularly when Gary meets femme fatale Madison, her backlit, curvy profile coming into focus at their first meeting. But for all its comedy, Hit Man is equally eager to throw some philosophy into the mix. As Gary spends more time as Ron, gun-for-hire, to woo Madison, his two personalities start to blur. Is Gary his true personality, or are they both real? Where does performance end and honesty begin? Inserting these issues gives Hit Man a much-needed emotional center, something to anchor the quippy dialogue and comedy set pieces.

Realism is thin at best, particularly when it comes to Gary’s believability as Ron. His various explanations and increasingly caricature costumes either force the audience to suspend disbelief or illustrate just how dumb these targets truly are. It doesn’t matter though, because the whole cast is having too much fun anyway.

As the film moves into its final act, the stakes get higher for Gary and Madison and they both must face the reality of their romance. The tension appropriately ratchets up and the plot stays surprisingly unpredictable. Though the tension eventually peters out, Hit Man keeps the audience entertained enough to forgive its missteps.

Powell and Linklater are a great duo who’ve created an easy-to-like comedy, buoyed by Powell’s natural charm and Linklater’s deft direction. While it has its share of weaknesses, particularly in the final act, the cast and crew are having too much fun for it to matter. Coupled with its introspective thread on what makes you the true you, Hit Man is a more than satisfactory film that does exactly what it sets out to do.


About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya