Saturday, June 15, 2024

"Hit Man" Is a Nice Piece of Counter Programming for Summer 2024


Scott D. Parker

Well, that wasn’t what I expected.

But maybe I should have.

“Hit Man” debuted on Netflix last Friday after spending a few days in the theater. Glen Powell stars as Gasy Johnson, a college professor who moonlights as a hit man for the cops. No, he’s not really a hit man. He just take a meeting, gets the perps on tape asking for a murder-for-hire, and then the cops swoop in.

The movie was inspired by a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth dating back twenty-four years. Gary isn’t just some ordinary joe meeting people in bars or restaurants. He’s a psychology professor who digs deep into his marks, figuring out what makes them tick, and then presents a “hit man” likely to align with the mark’s impression of what a hit man would look and act like. This gives actor Glen Powell the change to change his appearance—just like the real Gary—coming out in wigs and fake teeth and affected accents. It’s all quite fun.

Until Gary meets Madison (Adria Arjona). She wants her abusive husband dead and Gary does the unlikely thing of talking her out of it. She walks away happy. Gary’s cop co-workers can’t believe it. And Gary? Well, he kind of likes the version of himself he created for Madison. He ends up seeing her again. And again. And again. 

Now we have a different tale, just like the entire movie.

It’s the Richard Linklater Effect

I should have known that a movie directed and co-written (with Powell) by fellow Texan Linklater would be a different kind of hit man movie. I mean, this is the same guy who gave us Dazed and Confused (and added Matthew McConaughey’s “Alright, alright, alright” to the movie lexicon) and Slacker, a film that helped spawn the independent film movement of the 1990s.

So this is a movie about a hit man with a lot of talking and zero moments of gun fire (outside of a gun range). Gary and Madison talk about identity and what it’s like to be a hit man, a trait Gary constantly deflects because, well, he’s a psych professor. In fact, while with Madison, Gary begins to like his alter ego better than himself. And a different Gary emerges.

One he has to keep hidden from the cops.

And then things take a weird, funny turn.

What makes this decidedly Hollywood-ized version of this story is the truth at its core. Gary Johnson was a real guy—he actually did his work here in Houston even though the movie takes place in New Orleans—and that’s wilder than any movie. 

A good movie and a nice bit of counter programming for all the usual movies we get during the summer months. Have a look. It’s on Netflix. You don’t even have to leave your couch.

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