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Hit Man Review: Richard Linklater's Dark Yet Zany Netflix Rom-Com Makes the Most of Glen Powell's Charisma

Powell plays a fake hit man who falls for his mark in this slightly generic but fun new movie

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Glen Powell, Hit Man

Glen Powell, Hit Man

Matt Lankes/Netflix

One of the rom-com genre's foundational tropes involves having two complete freaks trick each other into falling in love. Hit Man certainly delivers in this regard, pitching a love story between a fake undercover assassin and one of his clients.

Sight unseen, Hit Man is already a tempting prospect thanks to the presence of writer/director Richard Linklater (Dazed and ConfusedBefore Sunrise) and actor/co-writer Glen Powell. Industry insiders have spent years hailing Powell as the Next Big Thing, and after 2023's hit romcom Anyone But You and a charismatic supporting role in Top Gun: Maverick, he's finally on the brink of actual stardom. He's also a recurring Linklater collaborator, appearing in Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood (2022) and the hilarious frat boy comedy Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), before helping to adapt Hit Man from a 2001 Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth.

Yes, Hit Man is seriously, genuinely based on a true story — albeit fictionalized around an amusingly twisted romance.

Powell stars as Gary Johnson, a nerdy college professor who lands a bizarre side gig with the local police department: going undercover as a hit man. This recurring sting operation hinges on the fact that hit men are basically an urban myth. Contrary to what Hollywood wants us to believe, you can't just hire the local John Wick to bump off your ex-wife or annoying boss. This misconception creates a steady market for nonexistent assassins, and the cops in Hit Man use Gary to catch potential clients. Clad in a series of outlandish disguises, he meets these people in public places to discuss the details of their prospective murder. As soon as money changes hands, the police storm in and arrest the customer.

It's an ethically troublesome scheme, flirting with the definition of entrapment. But Hit Man isn't a story about sensible behavior and moral purity. It's about two messy people who hook up under even messier circumstances.


Hit Man


  • Powell and Arjona are hilarious together
  • Powell has a lot of fun with his goofy undercover personas
  • The twisty plot will keep you guessing


  • The background characters are pretty shallow
  • It's not as memorable as most Linklater movies

Long before his love interest, Maddy (Adria Arjona), shows up, Gary is already way too invested in this fake hit man deal. In everyday life, he's a boring nerd whose main hobby is birding. His undercover job gives him an unexpected creative outlet, tailoring hilariously specific personas to each new target. He discovers an innate talent for crafting new mannerisms and catering to strangers' tastes, which makes things awkward when he meets Maddy: a beautiful young woman with a sympathetic reason to hire a professional killer.

The pair soon hit it off, in a meet-cute that starts out like neo-noir lite but evolves into something much funnier and more complicated. Gary isn't just jeopardizing his job when he decides to keep seeing her. He's unavoidably deceiving Maddy, who fell for one of his fictitious hit man personas — a suave, confident character who was literally made for her, and bears zero resemblance to the "real" Gary.

Powell and Arjona's chemistry really kicks off in the second half, where the story simultaneously gets darker and zanier. As Gary's deceptions pile up, his problems tread the line between thrilling and absurd, clashing with unexpected new sides to Maddy. There's also an obvious tension around the possibility of legal fallout if the police find out he's dating a suspect.

While Hit Man isn't "a Netflix movie" in the sense of being filmed for Netflix, it does have a certain made-for-streaming vibe. Considering Linklater's illustrious career, that's surprising. The supporting characters, for instance, are kind of shallow. While Austin Amelio has an edgier role as a slimy undercover cop, Gary's other coworkers (Retta and Sanjay Rao) are basically just there to provide funny background banter. A lot of the film's locations also feel generic and lacking in visual personality. So if we're judging by the standards of Netflix romantic comedies, it's a triumph of star power and unpredictable storytelling. But if we're grading on a curve for Linklater's filmography, it's a fun but ultimately unmemorable way to spend a couple of hours. 

As the rom-com renaissance continues to pick up speed, Hit Man makes a strong argument for the darker side of the genre — not in the sense of being downbeat or intense (it's emphatically comedic!), but in the way it mixes classic tropes with higher stakes of deception. These characters aren't just lying to each other about their jobs or romantic history. They're playing around with violent crime. Linklater understands that the best rom-com protagonists have strong personalities — the weirder the better — and Arjona and Powell are happy to play their assigned roles to the hilt.

Premieres: May 24 in theaters; June 7 on Netflix
Who's in it: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta
Who's behind it: Richard Linklater (writer/director). Glen Powell (co-writer)
For fans of: Edgy romcoms, Glen Powell