Review: ‘Hit Man’ Shows Glen Powell Having Fun With His Range With a Twisted Love Story Ending

By Daniel Hart
Published: June 7, 2024 (Last updated: Yesterday)
Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell in Hit Man on Netflix as part of a review and ending explanation
(L-R) Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in 'Hit Man' (Credit - Netflix)


Hit Man evolves in a surprising manner as the story progresses, showcasing Glen Powell’s range while bringing excitement and meaning in the third act.

For all its engaging fun, Hit Man has more meaning than the script suggests. It’s the ideal Netflix movie with obvious conversational points. I loved this film, not because of the comedy but because of the charm and spark that Glen Powell brings to the script. Powell loves his character, which is loosely based on a real person. But, setting aside the performance, this dark comedy takes itself lightly, too, giving an air of The Wolf of Wall Street.

Hit Man follows Gary Johnson (Powell), a professor who delves into part-time tech support work at a city police department. His life suddenly changes when he’s asked to moonlight as a fake hitman to bring down people who desire to pay for murder. However, his world turns dangerous when he encounters a woman he’s attracted to (Puerto Rican-Guatemalan actress Adrian Ajorna) who wants his services. 

There’s More Meaning To This Movie Than Meets The Eye

The main selling point isn’t the true story aspect (which Netflix will be more wary of after the Baby Reindeer circus) but more the scope in which Glen Powell presents the story. The script required the actor to take on many roles: his life as a professor, an ex-boyfriend, a police colleague, and the many characters he portrays as a fake hitman to his clients. I had as much fun as Powell, and I believe that’s the point. He puts in the shift to narrow the gap between Gary Johnson and the audience as finely as possible. There’s a desire to understand his ego, his flaws, and the self-centered ways that inconveniently twist his life. 

The director has fun, too: once you are teased with Gary’s first hitman job, you’d forgive the final cut removing many of the other jobs he was required to do so more of the story can be explored. However, Hit Man shows as many instances of this as it pleases, which, ironically, provides the full range of Glen Powell’s acting ability. Sometimes, you have to let an actor loose, and director Richard Linklater does that. 

The amp is truly dialed up when Gary Johnson meets the film’s head-turner, Madison ‘Maddy’ Masters (Arjona). Powell and Arjona set the scenes on fire with on-screen chemistry. Hit Man moves from goofy undercover cop to Mr. and Mrs. Smith lite. The introduction of Maddy brings the movie’s central scenario to Gary’s potential downfall, as he’s become accustomed to taking on various characters to fool murderous clients. 

But the real surprise is the depth of the character of Gary Johnson, who goes by many names in the movie and is someone I delve into when I explain the ending below. The character taps into the misguidedness of egoic growth. While I understand that this is not an entirely true story, especially with major developments in the third act, Hit Man does not shy away from an interesting character study.

Gary, a professor, is an aloof, normal guy who gets by with his substandard personality but does not set anyone’s world alight. His ex, whom he deems to be his best friend and who he still platonically spends time with (friend-zoned on steroids), even makes the point that Gary lacks passion (which clearly pains the ego of his performance in the bedroom). 

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in ‘Hit Man’ (Credit – Netflix)

But seeing a character like Gary transform into whoever he needs to be to manipulate and entrap makes me wonder if there are many sociopaths out there ready to be tapped from that cocoon but lead ordinary lives instead, like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, who was nothing special, but circumstances woke up his true form. And while many audiences and critics will likely see the lighter side of the story, I saw something different. I saw a case study of an unformed personality disorder that excelled in a professional capacity — a man unsure of his weaponry and capabilities. If you really think about it, that’s probably what makes this comedy dark.

My main complaint about Netflix is not the quantity of content. In fact, I’m amazed that they are not complimented more for content velocity and diversity. But many of these movies have zero rewatch value, even when they have leading stars. Hit Man is different. It’s engaging from start to finish. It’s fun, and I’d happily watch it again. 

[Please be warned, my reader, that from here forth, there will be spoilers ahead.]

Hit Man Toys With Morality In A Surprising Happy Ending

Adria Arjona as Madison in Hit Man

Adria Arjona as Madison in ‘Hit Man’ (Credit – Netflix)

In You, when Love Quinn turns out to be as bat-s**t crazy as Joe Goldberg, it was one of the best moments on TV. In Hit Man, when it turns out that Madison was the one who killed her husband, it is not equally as effective, but it’s hella fun watching it play out, as Gary Johnson is absolutely mortified that he’s created a monster.

Most audiences should have seen it coming: she’s hot, for one. Two, she’s incredible at role-playing in the bedroom, activating any fantasy that Gary wanted. And three, when she initially wanted a hit man and tried securing Gary’s fake services, she almost turned the meeting into a lustful first date. Madison proves that 10s do not exist; there has to be a crazy side.

So, Gary has no choice but to reveal to his murderous girlfriend that he’s a cop (not a hitman) and not the charming Ron but a normal, average guy named Gary. I mean, I was not surprised that she had the ick. When he said “Gary,” even I could feel the attraction leave her.

Save The Worldie, Gain a Wife

But the web of lies leads to further problems. Madison is the number one suspect in her own husband’s murder, and it does not help that his life insurance was increased before she wanted to hire a hitman. Plus, Jasper is on Gary’s ass, knowing he’s romantically involved with the chick, so he cruelly suggests that he has a conversation with Madison while he has a wire on him. His colleagues are unaware of Jasper’s suspicions of Gary and Madison’s relationship.

Of course, Gary does everything he can to save the goddess, and when he arrives at the house, he provides her notes as he confronts her about her murdered husband. It’s an audio-only-wire, so the police cannot see what Gary is writing to her. The team believes Madison is innocent, but the true twist is Jasper’s final confrontation.

Later, Gary goes to Madison’s house (clearly thinking with his p***s at this point), but Jasper is already there, confirming his hunch that Gary is, at this point, an accomplice to murder by covering up Madison’s crime. He blackmails them both, asking for the insurance money Madison claimed after her husband’s death.

But Madison has a taste for murder at this point, and unbeknownst to Jasper, his beer is poisoned, and he ends up collapsing on the floor.

Gary believes they only have one option, so he wraps a plastic bag around Jasper’s head so he slowly suffocates to death. He concocted a story with Madison, so they have alibis, and sets up a scenario where Jasper kills himself. They then both declare they love each other.

Wait, The Ending Is a Happy One?

(L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in ‘Hit Man’ (Credit – Netflix)

Hit Man’s ending is surprisingly happy and brings a moral quandary to the film’s plot. Getting away with murder was not the twist I was expecting. I half thought that both characters would be facing inevitable jail time for association with each other.

But what I found most satisfying is how the movie dictates the ending from the start. In the first act, Gary’s colleagues are surprised by how quickly he thinks on the spot as a fake hitman, describing dead body disposals and the removal of fingerprints in his creative conversations. Gary’s character development is projected from the start as he quickly thinks on his feet to kill Jasper. He was a psychopath ready to be unleashed with his equally psychotic girlfriend.

So, when the end of Hit Man arrives, and you see Gary and Madison having a fruitful relationship with a small family of children, I was surprisingly happy for them, which made me question my own moral compass. Why do we sometimes want the sick and twisted to win? Maybe we, the audience, are the problem after all. 


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