Last year, Glen Powell broke out as an upcoming star of Hollywood with his role in Top Gun: Maverick. He gained a lot of praise and fame with the success of the movie but also brought the spotlight on himself as people were looking forward to what he would do next to build his career and continue the upward trajectory. It was later announced that he going to star in Richard Linklater’s next true-crime comedy from a script Powell himself co-wrote with Linklater. The movie also ended up in major film festivals including Venice and Toronto.
Richard Linklater is known for the Before Trilogy and has a highly acclaimed filmography, so this team-up between the two made a lot of sense. Hit Man is loosely based on the 2001 Texas Monthly magazine article of the same name by Skip Hollandsworth. It follows Gary Johnson (Glen Powell), a philosophy professor and a part-time fake contract killer for the New Orleans Police Department. He sets up sting operations with the NOPD so that they can arrest people with murderous plans. Things take an unexpected turn when he falls for a beautiful woman named Madison (Adria Arjona) who hires him to kill her husband.
The narrative begins with a look into Johnson’s everyday life including his philosophy lectures, his cats, and his role with the NOPD. He fully commits to these stings by speaking like a Hitman and dressing like one, as he wants to be as convincing as possible. There’s a montage of Powell in different avatars in different stings where we see his range as an actor for the first time in the movie. Once he meets Madison, the focus shifts to their romance, and his work is pushed to the background for a while. But the narrative constantly takes one Interesting turn after another which keeps the audience guessing and engaged.
The script is very tight and well-paced throughout. The dialogue particularly is a standout with plenty of laugh-out-of-loud moments. But the script’s real strength is in its ability to utilize all its characters and find compelling alleyways to take the story and bring it all together in the end in a satisfying conclusion. Linklater brings out the best out of each scene with his camerawork. There is a particular scene in Act 3 that stands out, which takes place at Madison’s house. That was the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. I don’t think I have ever seen a Hitman story told quite in this way. The script also focuses on themes like identity, morality, and the tenderness of human impulse.
I didn’t find any glaringly obvious issues with the movie. I appreciate the balance between the love story and the crime aspect of it. Adria Arjona looks ravishing in the movie and her performance is worthy of appreciation. But the true star of the movie is of course Glen Powell, who knocks it out of the park with his charm and talent. He shows his range and potential as an actor for the first time and will definitely win a lot of praise for his performance which is worthy of a Best Actor nomination in my opinion. This movie could get a lot of love in other categories as well at the upcoming Oscars, should it be released in 2023. The reception at Venice and Toronto has been exceptional and everyone is raving about it.
Hit Man is a spectacular true crime caper that rides on a star-making performance from Glen Powell. The chemistry between the leads is electric and has razor-sharp dialogues. It is thoroughly entertaining and is not only one of the best movies of TIFF 2023 but easily one of the best movies of the year. Don’t miss out on this one.