Hit Man: Searching for Gary

Everyone can change. Just ask Gary.

In Hit Man, Gary (Glen Powell) is a college professor who moonlights at the New Orleans police department. Working on a team designed to prevent people acquiring hitmen to take out their adversaries, Gary keeps a low profile and stays out of sight. However, after problems at work force him into the lead role, he must reinvent himself and pose as a professional assassin. Things go better than expected until he inadvertently finds himself attracted to a woman (Adria Aryona) in need of his services, leaving Gary torn between love and duty.

Directed by Richard Linklater (who also co-wrote with Powell), Hit Man is an engaging rom-com that isn’t afraid to sit within the dark corners of its humour. As the creator of films like Boyhood and the Before Trilogy, Linklater has always done an excellent job fleshing out the lives of those who are looking for more out of life. In Hit Man, he takes its over-the-top premise and grounds it the psychology of its characters, creating something that feels fresh.

Hit Man. Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man. Cr. Netflix © 2024

Admittedly, it’s possible that story comparisons to Gosling’s recent film The Fall Guy will likely be made. Both films feature ‘everyday nobodies’ who find themselves dragged into murderous circumstances that are above their pay grade. But that’s where the similarities end. Whereas Fall Guy is meant as a raucous romp, Hit Man takes its comedic material far more seriously. While still willing to bring the laughs, Hit Man feels more like a romantic thriller than Gosling’s neon-infused story that includes visions of unicorns.

Undoubtedly, the most intriguing performances belongs to Powell, as he essentially plays dual roles as the same character. For example, as the mild-mannered Gary, Powell creates a character that’s intentionally forgettable. Like Indiana Jones before him, Gary blends into the wallpaper as a milque-toast professor who’s simply trying to pay the bills. However, as he steps into his alternate life as professional hitman, Powell brings an increasing strength to his performance that becomes addicting to Gary (and, frankly, to the viewer). Even so, it’s his chemistry with Aryona that brings the film to life. Together, there’s a spark between them that elevates the film. 

Hit Man. (L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison Masters and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson.

Even so, Hit Man premise also invites some intriguing questions about identity. For example, Gary continuously speaks to the fact that people can be whoever they want to be. Many films would take that idea as a blanket statement about personal growth, but Hit Man seems to suggest something deeper. Hit Man doesn’t simply mean that people can act differently. 

Instead, the film seems to suggest that identity is fluid.

To Gary, there are no personal boxes. Every person is on a continuous journey of evolution. Based on the choices we make, we can either advance or hinder that psychological growth. Is Gary really just another teacher? Or is his other self an example of his next evolution? In Hit Man, we’re meant to believe that, not only can people change their behaviour. 

Hit Man. Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man. Cr. Netflix © 2024

They can change who they are.

Loaded with murder and mayhem, it’s surprisingly psychological conversations like this that make this comedic thriller hit its mark. Just like Gary, Hit Man understands that there’s always time to grow and evolve and invites us to do the same.

Well… maybe not exactly like Gary.

Hit Man is available on Netflix on Friday, June 7th, 2024.

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