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Hit Man Review

June 10, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Hit Man Image Credit: Netflix
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Hit Man Review  

NOTE: Very slight spoilers within for the new Netflix offering, Hit Man!

First off, I just want to say that Hit Man kind of annoyed me.

And not just because it’s called “Hit Man” and not “Hitman”, thereby making it slightly frustrating to find on Letterboxd when I went to log it. No, you see, it’s because Hit Man is based not just on a true story, but on one man in particular. And the movie did not shy away from that, outright calling the main character Gary Johnson, the man for whom the story was taken. The movie presents as a biographical account of Gary’s life. His wild and interesting life… but we’ll get to that in a moment.

It’s that when you get to the credits bit where they start telling you about the real Gary Johnson, you find out… well, it would be spoilers to get much into it. But you find out something! And it really got my goat finding it out! I’ll be slightly less dodgy about all of this in my second Down, so feel free to skip that one if you want to see Hit Man. It won’t spoil the movie for you, but it will spoil the short biography we get in the credits.

Hit Man is the story of the aforementioned Gary Johnson, played by Glen Powell*. Gary is a boring high school teacher who is so milquetoast, he’s even best friends with his ex-wife. He teaches, he reads at home, and he tends lovingly to his two cats, Id and Ego. That’s a bold move naming your cat Id; hopefully it doesn’t live up to that name!

The only moderately noteworthy aspect of Gary’s life is that he is kind of an electronics aficionado, and his role there sees him working with the police to make sure their equipment works for sting operations wherein they are arresting folks who are trying to hire an assassin to take out someone against whom they have a vendetta.

When a fellow officer is suspended for assaulting two teenagers while on the job, Gary is reluctantly thrust into the position of being the man to play the hired gun to catch these would-be criminals. And it turns out, he is really good at it! So while the detective is serving his suspension, Gary becomes the unit’s new go-to guy.

During one routine meeting with a prospective client, Gary determines the cute girl named Madison he is meeting needs to be set straight more than she needs to be arrested, so he advises her out of her position and sends her on her way.

And everything changes for him when, a few days later, she calls him again. This call sets Gary on a path of deception. Sexy, sexy deception for Madison and Gary! And as the lines blur for Gary, he starts becoming more the man Madison thinks he is than who he actually is.

*Glen Powell is having a moment right now as one of Hollywood’s newest It Guys. He had been working steadily in the industry since childhood, but a secondary role in Top Gun: Maverick really put fresh eyes on the on-the-rise talent. Add to that last year’s romcom smash Anyone But You and this year’s Twisters, and it’s likely we will be seeing a lot of him for the next few years.


+ The story is highly investing and interesting, and as you are watching it, you really get drawn in to the mystery of it all. What will happen to Gary? You know the situation he is in is not ideal, but is he really doing anything wrong? What happens if he gets caught?

Everything about it is grippingly told, and the nearly-two-hour runtime ends up flying by. The plot is just so tightly written out. The story bounces around from comedy to tension to drama, but nothing ever feels out of place. It’s a truly expertly crafted story to grab your attention and keep you watching.

+ Glen Powell continues to impress. After being the breakout star of Anyone But You–Sidney Sweeney is quite good in that one, too, and their chemistry is fantastic, but it’s hard to deny that Powell shines the brightest–he takes the role of Gary Johnson and makes it all his own. Watching him play not just Gary, but Gary also playing other roles to catch the kind of people who would hire a hitman is a joy.

God, does this dude make me want to see Twisters, a movie I previously had zero interest in? I might see that solely because of him now. Damn.

– So the story is well-spun and the star of the show shines. Where do we start with the Downs? Well the secondary characters (except for one, Austin Amelio as Jasper) aren’t given much to work with or do. They just kind of sit back and react to how great Gary is. It’s weird having cast an actress as recognizable as Retta and then not really doing anything with her. Whether it’s Gary’s ex-wife or his students or his co-workers, the bones of these other characters just don’t have any meat on them.

Aside from the secondary characters, there is Adria Ajorna as Madison, and she’s completely serviceable! But after Anyone But You, she doesn’t have the same chemistry with Powell as Sweeney. They work well enough together, and their scenes of passion are definitely hot, but she just feels adequate here.

So I guess this Down is “Damn you, Glen Powell, for outshining all of your co-stars!”

This is the SLIGHTLY SPOILERY Down I was talking about if you want to skip this and go straight to the Overall score. So the movie moves along and is exciting and interesting, and it made me wonder how the real Gary Johnson got away with everything going on here… only for the credits wrap-up sequence to tell us that the entire plot of this movie was fabricated, and as far as anyone knows, the real Gary was just a stand-up good guy dude who never did anything wrong on unprofessional. So the whole movie is just a lie about this guy’s life! It literally says that the movie made up those parts. Wow!

I don’t know why that bothered me. I’m sure they ran the plot of the film by Gary’s family and friends, and they were all okay with the portrayal. So there does not seem to be any dire betrayal here. It just felt weird to get to the end and see that they lied… not just to make the story more interesting, but to make this guy more controversial. Who made that choice?

The final score: review Good
The 411
Glen Powell and the powerful screenplay pick this movie up and carry solidly into Very Good territory. I'd definitely recommend checking this out on Netflix whenever you have a chance.

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Hit Man, Rob Stewart