review

Hit Man review: Glen Powell sizzles in Richard Linklater’s satisfying rom-com caper

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Hit Man. (L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix
Hit Man. (L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Such is the huge wattage of Glen Powell’s charisma, he could create onscreen chemistry with anyone. Which is why he could easily cement himself as his era’s rom-com star in the way that Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey did.

But the key to a great rom-com lead isn’t just that they have charm and comedic timing. Lots of actors have that and there’s a reason they don’t escape the Hallmark channel.

A great rom-com lead has range, they can plumb dramatic depths, vulnerabilities and, sometimes, a little bit of darkness. Hanks, McConaughey and, arguably, Grant is now better known for their dramatic work.

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Powell has that range, and it was immediately obvious in the under-appreciated 2018 rom-com Set It Up, in which he sparked with the equally delightful Zoey Deutsch. In last year’s sunny Anyone But You, he and Sydney Sweeney didn’t have fire but that was more to do with the lacklustre direction and absent script than Powell, who definitely showed up.

He deserved a better project than Anyone But You and in Hit Man, he has one. In part because he co-wrote the screenplay with director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused), and this marks the third time the two have worked together. It’s a dynamic that is clearly successful.

Hit Man. (L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix
Glen Powell plays a fake hit man in Richard Linklater’s new movie. Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Hit Man is a great movie. It’s a playful movie and it’s a smart movie. It’s a rom-com and caper in one and it deftly balances the demands of what could have been a complicated plot that in lesser hands might have taken too many twists and turns.

Technically it’s based on a true story but it also diverges from the source material so it could have a lot more fun and explore some murkier decisions.

Powell plays Gary Johnson, a man as unassuming as his name. By day he’s a professor but he moonlights for the local police department on a team that sets up stings catching people trying to hire contract killers.

Hit Man. (L-R) Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man. Cr. Brian Roedel/Netflix  2024
Hit Man is a rom-com and something of a crime caper. Credit: Brian Roedel / Netflix

One day, Gary has to step in as the fake hit man, and he discovers a talent for the unconventional acting job. And he loves it, concocting identities he’ll think will resonate more with those looking to murder, for example, an estranged wife during divorce proceedings.

Among the many personas is a slick-haired, pinstriped yuppie that surely has to be inspired by Christian Bale in American Psycho – the movie has a lot of fun with these characters.

Then he meets a client, Madison (Adria Arjona), who is trying to get rid of an abusive and controlling husband. Gary, in the guise of hit man Ron, falls for her, and now it’s a dance where he’s pretending to be someone else and she has her own secrets. Can such a complicated meet-cute get to a happily ever after?

The romance didn’t happen in real life, but the rest is true, and it’s a wild story. That Linklater could weave everything together and bring out this dazzling chemistry between Powell and Arjona is why Hit Man is such a satisfying and hot rom-com.

Rating: 4/5

Hit Man is on Netflix from June 7 at 5pm AEST

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