Hit Man

Hit Man

2024, R, 115 min. Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Molly Kate Bernard.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 24, 2024

The Academy, those snobs, will overlook it, but the best special effect I’ve seen this year is the weenie-fication of Glen Powell in Hit Man, a true-ish tale about a definitely fake assassin.

In real life, the native Austinite actor boasts the kind of blinding good looks a paperback romance would describe as Adonis-like. But playing Gary, a mild-mannered professor of psychology and philosophy who provides tech support for the New Orleans PD on the side, Powell is a study in dork. He’s a socks-with-sandals nice guy living quietly – perhaps timidly – with his two cats, Ego and Id. On sting operations, he’s content to sit in the van, fiddling with surveillance equipment. But when an operation is about to go sideways, Gary is abruptly pushed from behind the scenes to center stage. Tasked with pretending to be a hit man for hire, Gary discovers he has a flair for the theatrical. Going undercover again and again, trying on new identities, Gary’s own essential self starts to evolve. And who better to chew on the big questions about human behavior than a guy teaching Jung and Nietzsche to college kids?

Gary is undercover as Ron, a real cool cat, when he first meets Madison (Andor’s Adria Arjona), lovely and tremolo and in the market for a hired gun to off her crappy husband. Anything after that, I’m not spoiling – OK, the picture of them in the bathtub gives you some idea – other than to note, Powell and Arjona’s collective smolder is so overwhelming, you’re liable to blush just from proximity. (Sidebar: Is this Richard Linklater’s most erotic film? Follow-up: Might their banter be even sexier than the naked bits?)

In any case, the bathtub is a dead giveaway that Ron – I mean, Gary – has taken a wildly unprofessional turn, one that marks a hard fork from the real Gary Johnson that inspired the film. Powell and Linklater, who cowrote the script together during the pandemic, have borrowed their premise from a 2001 profile written by Skip Hollandsworth, Texas Monthly’s true-crime virtuoso. (His reporting also inspired Linklater’s 2011 film Bernie.) But the plot is largely narrative fancy, a giddy grab-bag of surprisingly complimentary genres (rom-com-noir, baby!) and influences (in its bemused voiceover and Powell’s hit parade of undercover disguises, Hit Man scratches a Fletch itch for sure). In fact, subterfuge comes naturally to Hit Man: You think you’re watching a breezy-seeming comedy, then you’re seduced by two expert flirts, and then suddenly you’re genuinely stirred by a carpe diem monologue on the malleability of identity. I mean, what even is this? An absolute gas.

Showtimes

AFS Cinema

6406 N. I-35 Ste. 3100, 512/322-0145, www.austinfilm.org/cinema

Sun., June 16

digital 5:00

Tue., June 18

digital 4:45

Sun., June 16

digital 6:00

Mon., June 17

digital 10:10

Tue., June 18

digital 6:00

Wed., June 19

digital 6:00

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., June 16

digital 10:45am, 1:35, 4:20, 7:20, 10:00

Mon., June 17

digital 11:00am, 1:45, 4:30, 7:20, 10:00

Tue., June 18

digital 11:15am, 10:00

Wed., June 19

digital 11:15am, 10:00

Thu., June 20

digital 11:00am, 10:00

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Hit Man, Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao, Molly Kate Bernard

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