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narco hitman movie review

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People like to speak about a golden era of movies—the precise dimensions of which often shift based on the generation of the speaker—when Hollywood made products that were sexier, smarter, and just generally better. Richard Linklater ’s “Hit Man” is for them. 

Like its protagonist’s ability to basically change identities depending on the situation, it’s a film that knows what its clients need, shifting from comedy to romance to thriller to a philosophical study of the human capacity to change. It’s one of the smartest films in years, a movie that’s reminiscent of everything from classic noir to the smooth delivery of  Steven Soderbergh ’s “ Out of Sight ” in its willingness to be damn sexy and morally complex at the same time. Don’t miss this one.

Very loosely based on a true story, “Hit Man” stars Glen Powell (who also co-wrote this stellar script with Linklater) as Gary Johnson, a New Orleans-based professor who has been assisting the police department with menial tasks like planting bugs and connecting wires in the surveillance van. When a slimy undercover agent named Jasper ( Austin Amelio ) gets suspended for 120 days for some violence involving teenagers—one gets the impression it probably should have been much longer—Gary is forced to step in and improvise on the job. It turns out he’s really good at it, convincing a sleazebag named Craig ( Mike Markoff ) that he’s a professional killer by detailing his technique when it comes to body disposal. Gary’s colleagues (memorably played by Retta and Sanjay Rao ) suggest that the mild-mannered cat lover and bird watcher should be their new undercover hit man.

Gary takes his new assignment very seriously, researching the people asking for a murder for hire in a way that makes them more likely to hand over the money. His ability to shape himself into the right man for the job could even be read as a bit of a meta-commentary on acting itself—he’s playing dress up, but he’s also doing the same kind of research and character work that Powell himself has done for dozens of roles. And, of course, Gary’s personality gamesmanship reflects his teachings about philosophy, not only in how his background allows him to read people but in how the different characters change Gary himself.

And that’s when Ron enters the picture. When Madison ( Adria Arjona ) tries to hire a hit man, she meets Ron (aka Gary) in a diner called the Please U Café—like so many choices in Powell & Linklater’s blindingly smart script, even that name doesn’t seem accidental. Ron listens to her story about her abusive husband, Ray, and he makes the sudden decision to save Madison from herself. Take the money you were going to spend on murder and start a new life. It’s only one of many beats in the back half of “Hit Man” that’s a bit morally ambiguous. What if Madison just goes and hires someone else, and someone ends up dead? So much of what follows, as Ron/Gary and Madison begin a romantic relationship, will have viewers wondering what they’re supposed to be rooting for to happen next.

That’s part of the unpredictable brilliance of “Hit Man.” So many movies telegraph their plot twists and underline their moral messages. “Hit Man” does none of that. If you asked a dozen people to guess where it was going at the halfway mark, or even where they  want it to go, you’d get 12 different answers. Linklater & Powell’s script constantly stays one step ahead of the viewers, making us eager to see what happens next and often surprised by what unfolds. I’m not sure it all adds up without loose plot threads, but it’s so wildly entertaining to take this twisting journey that it doesn’t matter.

It’s also sexy as Hell. The first scene between Powell and Arjona feels like a bolt of lightning, given how rarely we see actual screen chemistry in modern movies. Hey, look, it’s two people being movie stars . Their instant chemistry becomes the foundation for the back half of the movie as what was kind of a goofy comedy shifts more into thriller and even noir, genres that allow for a bit of moral ambiguity. Without spoiling, “Hit Man” goes to some pretty daring places narratively where other filmmakers and studios would have headed for more predictable moral waters. “Hit Man” recalls noirs and thrillers in which we rooted for the leads to get away with relatively heinous acts in the name of entertainment and didn't think about the repercussions.

That last thought might make “Hit Man” seem like little more than a lark. It’s not. This film will be underrated in its complexity, a study of how easy it is to become what we pretend we are. It’s about how we like to define people by their jobs, or even if they’re a cat or dog person, but one of the great things about humanity is our ability to surprise even ourselves. (Powell is SO good at selling the improvised choices that Gary makes in a way that's essential to the film's success.) It’s a deceptively well-made flick that appears to be Linklater in little more than his “let’s have fun” mode. But it can’t keep one of the smartest filmmakers of his generation from elevating everything that this movie is trying to do with remarkable depth.  

The truth about “Hit Man” is that the golden era people long for would have made this movie a smash, the kind of hit that turns Glen Powell and Adria Arjona into household names. That's what I miss in that I sometimes wonder if some of my favorite movies of the past would even be noticed by the content algorithm in 2024. This one is getting a brief theatrical run before landing on Netflix, where good films too often get buried. Don’t let that happen here. Or they really won’t make this kind of movie anymore.

In limited theatrical release tomorrow, May 24 th . On Netflix on June 7 th .

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Hit Man movie poster

Hit Man (2024)

115 minutes

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson

Adria Arjona as Madison 'Maddy' Masters

Austin Amelio as Jasper

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Sanjay Rao as Phil

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  • Richard Linklater
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Film Review: NARCO HITMAN (2016)

Peter 'Witchfinder' Hopkins

NARCO HITMAN *** U.S.A. 2016 Dir: Joey Johnson 87 mins

narco hitman movie review

Carson Empman (David S. Hogan) is one of the most successful hitmen around who works for a big drug cartel. He is simply known as ‘The Ghost’ due to no one knowing what he really looks like. When he gets a call to join a group of other hitmen for a big payday, he reluctantly joins the group and ends up falling in love with Clarissa, the female on the team. Once the job is done he soon discovers that he has been betrayed and the woman he loves has been killed. Hiding out in a cabin in the woods he plots his revenge and will aim to take down the cartel whatever the cost. While all this is going on a local sheriff is trying to piece together the dark secrets of the mystery man found dead in the cabin. You would be forgiven in thinking that you are about to watch a poor mans JOHN WICK.  While there is a few similarities,  NARCO HITMAN is less about an ass kicking hitman and more about the journey of how he ended up wanting revenge on the cartel. It is well acted and the chemistry between the actors playing Carson Empman (David S. Hogan) and Clarissa (Angela DiMarco stands out. Even more so when you learn that they are dating each other in real life during the making of this film. There is an intriguing storyline with the sheriff piecing together Carson’s plan as the film unfolds, but you will have to watch the film yourself to find out how it all plays out. Don’t expect alot of bloody fights and bullets flying everywhere as this is more about the mystery of the hitman and his journey. If mystery thrillers are your thing then give this film a watch.

Review by Peter ‘ Witchfinder ‘ Hopkins

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Where to watch

Directed by Joey Johnson

Your Worst Fears Realized

A contract killer takes vengeance against a ruthless drug cartel, resulting in a mysterious puzzle that a small town sheriff must solve in order to stop untold horrors.

David S. Hogan Darlene Sellers D'Angelo Midili Richard Carmen Angela DiMarco

Director Director

Joey Johnson

Writer Writer

Mighty Tripod Productions

Releases by Date

03 jun 2016, releases by country.

87 mins   More at IMDb TMDb Report this page

Popular reviews


Review by Dan_Tebasco ★

Appearantly this film has changed name 3 times, when I watched it it was called Narco Hitman.

I watched the trailer and wasn't blown away by it but looked as if it could offer some decent enough action and I enjoy hitmen movies so I thought why not. But first impressions can be deceiving and a good editor can make a good trailer out of a bad movie with no problems as long as it has some redeemable qualities to it.

And that's the case here, this is a proper snooze-fest. There's barely any action to speak from and the cast is about as wooden as a classic rocking-chair.

Half the film consists of people talking on the phone with…


Review by Markella ★★½ 2

Who the FUCK changed the name and cover art for this film?

Paralytic had a bloody syringe slapped on the poster. It was titled Paralytic, a creepy ass name for a creepy kooky good time show.

If y'all were forced to change your title and cover art to this Inception bullshit by distributors then I'm so very sorry. Shame on them, this movie is fantastic and I hope this doesn't deter anyone from watching.

Ken Rudolph

Review by Ken Rudolph ★½

Carson is a mysterious contract killer (played by David Hogan, dreadfully miscast) who gets involved with the evil Chutro drug cartel in some nefarious plot. It goes wrong; and the cartel boss wants to eliminate Carson. The now hunted killer hatches a plot involving a woman sheriff and a paralytic drug that the cartel manufactures, to avoid the torture and punishment the cartel has in store for him. That's the bare bones of the plot. But this turgid Washington state produced film-noir misfires on every cylinder. The thriller plot is ridiculously inane, the actors are almost all too young and wan to do authentic noir melodrama (only Darlene Sellers as the sheriff is even a smidgen convincing.) And for me,…

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Hit Man Review

Hit Man

It’s taken a while for Glen Powell to truly step into the spotlight. After popping up in the likes of  Hidden Figures ,  Set It Up  and  Everybody Wants Some!!  (the last his first collaboration with Richard Linklater), it was 2022’s  Top Gun: Maverick  that saw him really take flight, giving an unforgettably hissable-yet-heroic performance as Lt Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin. Major turns have come since — box-office-busting romcom  Anyone But You  and another aviation adventure,  Devotion  — but it is with  Hit Man  that Powell announces himself as a movie star and a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.

Hit Man

Inspired by the true story of teacher-turned-pretend-assassin Gary Johnson (as reported by journalist Skip Hollandsworth in a 2001 article for  Texas Monthly ),  Hit Man  sees Powell re-team with Linklater, this time on a deeper creative level as co-writer. It takes the real-life nugget of Gary’s unusual side-hustle and expands it into a tale of murder, mystery and mugshots. Powell starts off the movie playing against type — his Gary is a socks-and-sandals-wearing loner and birdwatcher, with two cats and a bad haircut. But when he’s asked last-minute to assume the role of fake hit man, so as to lure those looking to hire him into confessing plainly enough to warrant being arrested, he is intoxicated by the confidence that being somebody else gives him.

Arjona's chemistry with Powell is sizzling, captured by Linklater through tactile touch and lingering eye contact.

Cue a hilarious roll-call of disguises, as Gary delights in researching his targets and figuring out the exact type of hitman that will draw them over the line into illegal territory. There’s the tattooed redneck with wrap-around sunglasses and camouflage bandana; the Russian-accented, cigar-chomping goth in the black leather coat; the slick-haired, sharp-suited yuppie who looks like he came straight off the set of  American Psycho ; the freckle-faced British guy with a ginger bob, dressed entirely in orange; and many, many more. Powell sinks entirely into every one of these identities, going full-on goofball with impeccable comic timing.

Hit Man

His finest character, though, is handsome charmer Ron. He is the assassin that Gary devises for Madison (Adria Arjona), a woman looking for a way out of her abusive marriage — but upon meeting her, Gary forgets his mission, letting Madison get away with her potential crime before striking up a relationship with her in his Ron persona. Arjona embodies both fieriness and fragility in what is surely a breakout role for her, making Madison an irresistible match for Gary/Ron while making sure there’s always something  off  about her that we can’t quite put our finger on. Her chemistry with Powell is sizzling, captured by Linklater through tactile touch and lingering eye contact. A romance based on lies and murder-for-hire is not exactly a healthy dynamic, but the pair are too magnetic for you to care, their charisma together oozing off-screen even when the plot becomes more heightened and melodramatic.

Hit Man

Though the narrative has plenty of twists and turns, Linklater’s direction still manages to evoke the cosy, comfortable vibe of his best hang-out movies.  Hit Man ’s visual style is clean, unfussy — not vastly inventive, but sunny and colourful and engaging. That fresh, modern aesthetic juxtaposes nicely with a more traditional, jazzy score throughout. But while there are a few dramatic scenes that work at building tension, especially in the third act, the film mostly speeds along on a pretty even keel — always entertaining, but never quite delivering huge shifts in tempo or emotion. Questionable, too, is just how quickly Gary is able to shift gear from being a bumbling, socially-awkward techie into a cool-as-a-cucumber contract killer. The script uses Gary’s work as a psychology and philosophy teacher to go some way into digging into this, and the ethics of his faux assassin role, but that exploration remains fairly surface-level.

Gary’s whiplash-inducing personality changes are but a quibble — those aside, Hit Man  delivers on just about every level. It’s funny, sexy, thrilling, fascinating. It’s original, and refreshingly so. It’s simply a friggin’ good time at the movies — and so, more’s the pity that it will receive such a limited theatrical run after being picked up for distribution by Netflix. If you can, try to experience Linklater, Powell and Arjona’s heady concoction for yourself on the big screen.

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Narco Hitman Reviews

  • 1 hr 27 mins
  • Watchlist Where to Watch

A sprawling drug cartel gets targeted by a hired killer looking for revenge. The imminent clash threatens to wreak havoc on a small town. Its sheriff must solve a mysterious puzzle if he is to save his town and prevent the unspeakable horrors that approach his home.

  • Movie - Narco Hitman - 2016

narco hitman movie review

Narco Hitman  (2016)  Paralytic

narco hitman movie review

  • Release Date: 11 May 2016 (US) (more)
  • Genre: Thriller (more)

When a notorious contract killer is hired by a drug cartel, the job takes an unexpected turn when he makes a connection with one of the cartel's associates, Clarissa. Shortly thereafter, he learns ...Read more that they killed Clarissa, prompting to unleash hell on the cartel to avenge her.

  • Joey Johnson (Director)
  • Joey Johnson (Writer)
  • David S. Hogan
  • Angela DiMarco
  • D'Angelo Midili
  • Darlene Sellers
  • DeRon Brigdon
  • Richard Carmen

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narco hitman movie review

When a notorious contract killer is hired by a drug cartel, the job takes an unexpected turn when he makes a connection with one of the cartel's associates, Clarissa. Shortly ...Read more thereafter, he learns that they killed Clarissa, prompting to unleash hell on the cartel to avenge her.

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Narco Hitman

Watch Narco Hitman

  • 1 hr 27 min
  • 4.3   (247)

Narco Hitman is a 2016 action-thriller film, directed by Joey Johnson, starring David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco, and D'Angelo Midili. The movie revolves around the dark world of drug trafficking and organized crime. The story follows a hitman named Martin Corona (David S. Hogan), who is hired by a drug lord to take out a rival gang. Martin is a ruthless killer, but he also has a conscience, and he starts to question his morals as he begins to see the real-life consequences of his actions. As he becomes more involved with the drug cartel, he begins to witness the harsh realities of the illegal drug trade, including the violence, corruption, and greed that come with it.

Martin initially started working as a hitman to provide for his family, but he soon realizes that there is no end to the violence and danger in this brutal world. His wife, Rosa (Angela DiMarco), is a schoolteacher who is unaware of her husband's profession. As Martin dives deeper into the criminal underworld, he risks not only his own life but also that of his family.

As Martin carries out a series of increasingly dangerous missions, he finds himself drawn to a young woman named Giselle (Montserrat Espadalé), who is an innocent victim of the drug cartel. Martin grows closer to Giselle as he tries to protect her from those who would harm her.

The movie features intense action scenes, shootouts, and car chases, as well as plenty of suspenseful moments that keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The film's gritty, realistic portrayal of the drug trade makes for a powerful viewing experience, as viewers get a glimpse into a world that is often hidden from public view.

The performances in Narco Hitman are strong, with David S. Hogan providing a standout performance as the conflicted hitman Martin. He effectively portrays the character's struggle with his conscience and his desire to protect his loved ones. Angela DiMarco is also excellent as Martin's wife Rosa, who provides a much-needed light in the midst of darkness.

Overall, Narco Hitman is a gripping and intense film that is not for the faint of heart. It offers a stark look at the world of drug trafficking and organized crime and is sure to leave a lasting impression on viewers.

Narco Hitman is a 2018 thriller with a runtime of 1 hour and 27 minutes. It has received mostly poor reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 4.3.

Narco Hitman

  • Genres Thriller Mystery
  • Cast David S. Hogan Angela DiMarco D'Angelo Midili
  • Director Joey Johnson
  • Release Date 2018
  • MPAA Rating NR
  • Runtime 1 hr 27 min
  • Language English
  • IMDB Rating 4.3   (247)

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Product Description

A highly successful hitman for a drug cartel is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse after he is betrayed and his lover killed. Hiding out in a small town and plotting his revenge, he is once again drawn into the world of murder for hire by an even more mysterious, dangerous organization, while a local sheriff tries to uncover his dark secrets.

Bonus Features: - Behind-the-Scenes Featurette - Trailers

Product details

  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches; 3.5 ounces
  • Director ‏ : ‎ Joey Johnson
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ NTSC
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 27 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ June 18, 2018
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco, Darlene Sellers, D'Angelo Midili, DeRon Brigdon
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English
  • Producers ‏ : ‎ Davis S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco, Joey Johnson, Sue Hogan, Sarah Moran
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ Wild Eye Releasing
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07FFZHN29
  • Writers ‏ : ‎ Joey Johnson
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 1
  • #15,429 in Mystery & Thrillers (Movies & TV)

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International Edition

Glen Powell's catchphrase from a new Netflix movie with a near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes score is actually straight from the true story

Exclusive | Director Richard Linklater reveals that the best line from his new film Hit Man is from the real life Gary Johnson

hit man

Director Richard Linklater's ( School of Rock , the Before Trilogy ) new film Hit Man is already - if you will excuse the pun - a hit with audiences thanks to its festival run and short theatrical release. This week it will finally be hitting Netflix, therefore introducing more people to the wild true story of Gary Johnson. Well, as the title card at the start reads, "a somewhat true story".

Loosely inspired by a real-life tale, Hit Man stars Top Gun: Maverick's Glen Powell as Johnson, a part-time contractor with the police who stumbles into a role posing undercover as a hitman. From there the new Netflix film diverts from the true story as Powell's Johnson falls in love with Adria Arjona's Maddy, with the pair becoming dangerously entangled.

Whilst the film does indeed take that diversion, it's pretty surprising what is directly taken from the true story. In fact, the very catchphrase used by Powell's fake hitman was actually used by the real Johnson, as Linklater himself revealed in an interview with GamesRadar+ and the Inside Total Film podcast . 

The director divulged that he heard Johnson use it on surveillance tapes he watched for research, then knowing that it had to be featured: "The line in the movie - ‘all pie is good pie’ - people ask me who made that up but it’s a Gary Johnson line. You can hear the people go like 'oh, we are going to meet at this little diner, how will you know it’s me, I’ll be eating pie in the corner, come ask me how’s the pie, I’ll say you know…' They think they are in a crime movie, that everybody is playing a role, that it’s a secret code, that they are dealing with the real deal here."

Glen Powell in Hit Man

Watching these real-life tapes of cases Johnson worked on was eye-opening for the filmmaker, who was fascinated by the various people searching for a hitman. As he told us, he finds the belief in this "myth" very strange: "It's this myth - I think movies invented hitman, this character we have created as a culture that just doesn't exist. People seem almost saddened or offended that they don't exist, we are all invested in it for some reason. It's so sad as we want to believe this stuff - we really should be relieved!"

He continued: "I also find it darkly comedic, the desperate people. I've listened to all these surveillance tapes, I've watched the sting operations, a lot of bad '80s and '90s videos - it's so bizarrely funny the way the clients start acting like they are in a crime movie."

And that's exactly how the situations play out in the movie, with clients approaching Powell's Johnson acting like they are in a Martin Scorsese gangster flick - it's all very amusing. 

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However, one question remains - is all pie really good pie? A joyful Linklater's answer is definitive: "No! There's a lot of crappy pie in the world!"

Hit Man will be available to stream on Netflix from June 7. Keep your eyes peeled for more from our interview with Linklater, including the full chat on the upcoming episode of the Inside Total Film podcast .

For more films to add to your watch list, here's our guide to the upcoming movies to keep an eye out for this year.

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.

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narco hitman movie review

Review: 'Hit Man' is one of the best movies of the year

Oooowee, this is one scorchingly sexy thriller.

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in "Hit Man."

Oooowee, "Hit Man" is one scorchingly sexy thriller.

It's also more, a lot more. "Hit Man," now in theaters on its way to Netflix on June 7, is powered by a new leading man who really brings the heat. His name is Glen Powell . You may have seen him hitting the action pedal with Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick" and then going all swoony-dreamy romantic opposite Sydney Sweeney in "Anyone but You."

But you ain't seen nothing yet. "Hit Man," written by Powell and director Richard Linklater, paints a deceptively comic face on darkness while sealing the deal on Powell as a Paul Newman/Steve McQueen for the 21st century. Such dazzle should not be taken lightly.

PHOTO: Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in "Hit Man."

Hollywood historians may try to pinpoint the precise moment when Powell became a movie star. It's here, about 15 minutes into "Hit Man," when Powell— playing a nerdy New Orleans philosophy professor—finds his inner cool by taking on bad-boy identities as an undercover hit man for the New Orleans PD. Hire him and the cuffs go on pronto.

Justice triumphs, but for this divorced, stay-at-home, bird-watching, cat laddie who drives a Honda Civic that doesn't know from vroom, it's the rush of playing a pretend badass that becomes an addiction. He's hooked. You will be, too.

MORE: Review: 'Drive My Car' a flat-out masterpiece, enthralling from first scene to last

Cheekily billed as a "somewhat true story," the film is based on Gary Johnson, a teacher who really did work undercover. But don't get hung up on facts since "Hit Man" frequently flies off into fantasy. What stays real is Gary teaching his students about the interplay between the id (primal urges) and the superego (morality) and the efforts of the ego to hold them in balance.

Talk about relatable. Gary lets his id flag fly, taking on wigs, fake teeth and accents as, among other fake IDs, a red-headed Brit killer, a stogie-chewing Russian thug and, most importantly as Ron whose swagger grows beyond what a leather jacket and a thousand dollar haircut can provide. "OK, Daniel Day," raves a cop (Retta) who is mightily impressed by his acting.

PHOTO: Glen Powell as Gary Johnson and Richard Robichaux as Joe in "Hit Man."

His students are shocked. "When did our teacher get hot?" When indeed. I'd say when Gary begins to identify more with Ron than himself. It's Ron who attracts Madison, played by the electrifying Adria Arjona, who hires him to off her abusive husband (Evan Holtzman).

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He talks her out of it, which leads to ethical quicksand that only intensifies their intimacy from bedroom to bathtub, resulting in the steamiest R-rated whoopie since the days of basic instincts and fatal attractions. Recently, "Challengers" and "Love Lies Bleeding" suggested that carnality wasn't dead on screen. "Hit Man" really makes the case for the return of cinema sizzle.

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Powell and Arjona, who costarred with boyfriend Jason Momoa in "Sweet Girl," are fire as screen lovers, bringing a hot-damn urgency even to the moments when Gary and Madison allow the truth to invade their love bubble. Who's to blame when her dirtbag husband turns up dead?

PHOTO: Austin Amelio as Jasper, Sanjay Rao as Phil and Retta as Claudette in "Hit Man."

Credit the Texas-born Linklater, the world class talent behind such gems as "Slacker," "Dazed and Confused," "School of Rock," "Boyhood" and the sublime trilogy of "Before Sunrise, "Before Sunset" and "Before Midnight." The laughs pop so vividly that at first you might miss the grace notes and the amplitude of Linklater's vision.

Sex on screen hasn't been this fun in years. But you always get a sense of something deeper and dangerous percolating beneath the livewire banter that can't quite disguise the secrets kept by two characters who can't keep their hands off each other.

What is "Hit Man," really? A case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meet the Nutty Professor? A radical romance that hinges on Freud, Jung and Nietzsche? Or a chance for Powell to prove he's a powerhouse actor able to nail every nuance in a juicy, challenging role?

How about all of the above? Without resorting to spoilers, I'd say go in without preconceptions for one of the best movies of the year, the kind you'll keep running back in your head with a smile that won't quit. How do you resist that? Two words: You don't.

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Glen Powell-Led ‘Hit Man’ Is A Funny, Sexy Thrill Ride

Glen Powell and director Richard Linklater reteam for ‘Hit Man,’ a comedic crime thriller with all kinds of spicy twists that’s based on a true story.

Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

In theaters now and premiering on Netflix June 7 is ‘ Hit Man ,’ directed by Richard Linklater and starring Glen Powell , Adria Arjona , Retta , Austin Amelio , and Sanjay Rao .

Related Article: 10 Things We Learned at the ‘Hit Man’ Press Conference with Cast and Crew

Initial thoughts.

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in 'Hit Man.'

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in 'Hit Man.' Photo: Netflix © 2024.

Premiering in 2023 at the Venice and Toronto film festivals before being scooped up by Netflix for a reported $20 million, ‘Hit Man’ – kind of like the recent ‘ Challengers ,’ but very different – is a breath of fresh air: an adult-oriented genre mash-up of rom-com, crime thriller and comedy that’s all the more astounding because it’s partially based on a true story.

Directed by Richard Linklater (‘ School of Rock ’) with a verve that’s been missing from some of his recent work, and starring Glen Powell in another star-making turn as a humdrum academic who rediscovers his passion and confidence by pretending to be a smoldering assassin, ‘Hit Man’ is smart, sensual, character-driven, and highly entertaining.

Story and Direction

Adria Arjona as Madison, director and co-writer Richard Linkletter, co-writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and director of photography Shane F. Kelly.

(L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison, director and co-writer Richard Linkletter, co-writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and director of photography Shane F. Kelly. Photo: Brian Rondel / Courtesy of Netflix.

‘Hit Man’ is based partially on an article of the same name, written by Skip Hollingsworth, that appeared in Texas Monthly magazine in 2001. It told the story of Gary Johnson, a college professor who moonlighted with the New Orleans police department first as a surveillance tech and then as an undercover agent himself, part of a sting operation set up to nab people looking to hire a hitman to off someone who had become an irritant in their lives.

What Johnson discovered is also what his screen counterpart, played by Glen Powell, discovers: that he has a genuine knack for not just undercover work, but inhabiting different personalities according to what he thinks the target will respond to. As the film begins, Johnson – lonely, divorced, boring his students and, whether he wants to admit it or not, boring himself – is thrust into his first undercover role when the usual front man, Jasper (a slippery Austin Amelio), is benched after beating on some alleged perps. Much to his surprise, Gary gets into the ‘tough guy’ persona he comes up with on the spot – and the head of his team (Retta) is pleased enough to recommend he keep doing it.

As Gary moves forward, he begins donning different costumes for each sting: in one of the movie’s funniest ongoing gags, they reference everyone from Christian Bale ’s Patrick Bateman in ‘ American Psycho ’ to Javier Bardem ’s Anton Chigurh from ‘ No Country for Old Men .’ But while disguised as a cool, suave, and yes, sexy assassin named Ron (Ron wears black tank tops under shirts open halfway down his chest, his hair swept back, while Gary dresses in flannels, khakis, and glasses, his hair flopping over his face), Gary meets a woman named Madison (Adria Arjona), who is looking to have her abusive husband killed.

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

Gary, as “Ron,” talks Madison out of going forward with her plan, surprising both himself and the members of his team listening in. But no one is more surprised than Gary when he – or rather, “Ron” – reconnects with a newly-separated Madison and begins a steamy relationship with her. From that point on, the story takes multiple twists, and no one – least of all Gary, who is finding it increasingly difficult to figure out where he ends and “Ron” begins – is exactly what they seem.

Linklater directs all this with a sure hand, confident in the material, the characters, and his actors but adding a little flash here and there with a comic montage or two. What works best about ‘Hit Man’ is its unpredictability: the movie shifts from romance to crime caper to psychological exploration without ever feeling like it’s taken too jarring a turn, which is a credit again both to the balancing of tone in both Linklater’s direction and the script by him and Powell.

There is perhaps one false note at the end of the picture – a bit of moral ambiguity that is not quite resolved – but in the final analysis, it works within the context of the rest of the story and, if anything, adds a nice touch of subversion to a movie that already lightly subverts some well-worn genre tropes.

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

Glen Powell has obviously been around for a minute (he’s worked with Linklater several times already), but his breakout work in ‘ Top Gun: Maverick ’ and his leading man turn in last year’s ‘ Anyone But You ’ has positioned him as one of Hollywood’s next big things. Frankly, he deserves it: ‘Hit Man’ features Powell at his most winning, with Gary a complex, compelling, and attractive protagonist who is empathetic and believable from the get-go even as his personal situation becomes more trying. His evolution from nerdy, existentially fuzzy Gary to confident, even swaggering Ron – and then fusing the two from there – is organic and expertly portrayed.

He and Adria Arjona have instant, off-the-chart chemistry from the start, an ingredient that helps make their love scenes in ‘Hit Man’ more sensual than some of the other screen romance we’ve seen in recent times. We last saw Arjona in a thankless role in 2022’s forgettable ‘ Morbius ,’ and here she’s much more alluring, sparkling, and funnier. But the character of Madison is somewhat undercooked: she goes from a relationship in which she has absolutely no agency to one in which…she kind of has no agency, waiting in her apartment for “Ron” to come around so they can get busy. There are some subtle reveals to the character later that help flesh Madison out, but she doesn’t come quite as fully to life as Gary.

The supporting cast is gold, led by Retta as the no-nonsense Claudette and Austin Amelio as the calculating, untrustworthy Jasper. And let’s not forget to mention the parade of suspects that Gary gets locked up through the sting operation – sure, some of them are no more than easily recognizable archetypes, but they each get a funny moment or two.

Final Thoughts

Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

Light and sure on its feet, ‘Hit Man’ also touches on some heavy questions: Who are we and how many different layers are there to our personalities? Are we really the best version of ourselves and if not, how do we get there? These musings are sprinkled liberally through the film, but the philosophical underpinnings don’t slow down what is still essentially a romp, bolstered by well-drawn characters and a powerhouse lead turn. If a movie like ‘Hit Man’ finds it harder to exist in movie theaters, the industry is truly having an existential crisis of its own.

‘Hit Man’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.

Hit Man

A mild-mannered professor moonlighting as a fake contract killer sparks a chain reaction of trouble when he falls for a client. Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Hit Man’?

New Orleans college professor Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) moonlights for the police department as a fake hitman, using multiple disguises to catch people looking to have someone in their lives killed off. But after he talks a beautiful woman (Adria Arjona) out of ordering a hit on her husband -- while disguised as a smoldering hitman named Ron -- Gary gets caught in an identity crisis that leads him to wonder just who he really is.

Who is in the cast of ‘Hit Man’?

  • Glen Powell as Gary Johnson
  • Adria Arjona as Madison Masters
  • Austin Amelio as Jasper
  • Retta as Claudette
  • Sanjay Rao as Phil
  • Evan Holtzman as Ray Masters

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'. Photo: Netflix.

Other Movies Similar to ‘Hit Man':

  • ' La Femme Nikita ' (1991)
  • ' Léon: The Professional ' (1994)
  • ' Assassins ' (1995)
  • ' Grosse Pointe Blank ' (1997)
  • ' Kill Bill: Vol. 1 ' (2003)
  • ' Mr. & Mrs. Smith ' (2005)
  • ' Hitman ' (2007)
  • ' The American ' (2010)
  • ' The Mechanic ' (2011)
  • ‘ John Wick ' (2014)
  • ' Hitman: Agent 47 ' (2015)
  • ' Mr. Right ' (2016)
  • ' American Assassin ' (2017)
  • ' The Hitman's Bodyguard ' (2017)
  • ' The Killer ' (2023)

Buy Tickets: 'Hit Man' Movie Showtimes

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narco hitman movie review

Don Kaye has been reading, watching, and collecting horror and sci-fi books, comics, and movies since he was 7 years old. He has been writing about film for more than two decades and has interviewed everyone from Steven Spielberg to Christopher Nolan to Kevin Feige, while also covering events like Comic-Con and visiting the sets of films like The Dark Knight Rises, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, and others. Beginning his career as a music journalist and syndicated radio producer, he broke into film journalism with the legendary horror magazine Fangoria and has since been a contributor to Den Of Geek, Looper, Syfy, MSN, Moviefone, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and many more.

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The Sexy Mind Games of “Hit Man”

By Richard Brody

Glen Powell and his various avatars accepting money from a woman

Years before Hannah Arendt coined, in the pages of this magazine, the phrase “the banality of evil,” popular films and fiction were embodying that idea in the character of the hit man. In classic crime movies such as “This Gun for Hire” (1942) and “Murder by Contract” (1958), hit men figure much as Nazis do in political movies, as symbols of abstract evil. The hired gunman in Ernest Hemingway ’s 1927 short story “The Killers”—who, when asked “What’s the idea?,” answers, “There isn’t any idea”—is a primordial counterpart to the guard in Auschwitz who told the inmate Primo Levi , “Here there is no why.” Instead of filling in these blanks, filmmakers have tended to welcome them. Thus, like the movie Nazi, the hit man has become so emptied of substance as to be, with rare exceptions, a ponderous cliché—a deadly bore.

A prime virtue of Richard Linklater ’s new film, “Hit Man,” is that it features no hit man. Rather, it’s centered on a character who portrays a hit man—an actor, in a sense, albeit one whose masquerade has nothing to do with entertainment. Linklater, faced with a plethora of precursors and stereotypes, leans into them with a diabolically smart yarn about illusion and imagination—less the psychology of the hit man than the psychology of the myth of the hit man. His comedic approach gets deeper into the archetype, by way of mere talk about violence, than many similar movies do with the grim depiction of gore. What’s more, the film is also a romantic comedy, among the cleverest and most resonant recent examples of the genre.

“Hit Man” is loosely based on a true story: a 2001 report in Texas Monthly by Skip Hollandsworth about a professor in Houston named Gary Johnson who, in 1989, started working with local police on a peculiar basis. In the movie, which updates the action to the present day and transplants it to New Orleans, Gary (played by Glen Powell, who also wrote the script with Linklater) is a chipper, nerdy thirtysomething professor of philosophy and psychology, a cat person and a bird-watcher who also enjoys tinkering with electronics. This skill has led the police department to enlist his help in operating surveillance equipment. During a sting operation to arrest someone who is trying to hire a hit man, two officers inform him that the policeman who was to pose as the assassin has just been suspended for misconduct, and they hastily urge Gary to take his place.

Meeting with his prospective client, Gary instantly delights in the act of deception, thanks to what he characterizes in a wry voice-over as a professional fascination with “the eternal mystery of human consciousness and behavior.” He proves to be a quick study, deftly tailoring his hit manner to win the mark’s confidence. Exhorting himself to “think hit-man thoughts,” he impersonates a killer with devastating effectiveness. Gary’s new colleagues, listening from the van, are astonished at his transformation into an aggressive criminal, capable of regaling the mark with elaborate and absurdly gruesome descriptions of how he’ll dispose of the body.

The scene, which runs seven minutes, unfolds Gary’s improvised persona with a breezy virtuosity energized by Powell’s focussed enthusiasm. It also underlines the crucial role that the experience will quickly come to play in Gary’s life. The professor takes to his part-time undercover work, and a police sergeant says that he has a better conviction rate than his predecessor did. Gary is galvanized by the power of psychological manipulation—and by the awakening of the long-suppressed multitudes that he contains. Studying accents and makeup on YouTube, he applies temporary tattoos, stains his teeth, crafts faux scars, and dons wigs to create distinctive personalities—a black-clad Eastern European, a buttoned-down businessman, a folksy skeet shooter—that he thinks will loosen suspects’ tongues.

Then one sting goes wrong, and yet all too right. Gary goes to a restaurant to meet a woman named Madison Figueroa Masters (Adria Arjona), who wants to pay him to kill her abusive husband. After consulting her social-media profiles and police records, Gary decides to slick back his floppy hair and present himself as a suave charmer named Ron. But Gary falls in love with Madison at first sight, and, in a tautly written scene of flirtation, their meeting rapidly comes to resemble a date. Knowing the fate that awaits Madison just outside the door if she agrees to go through with the deal, Gary—or, rather, Ron—dissuades her from hiring him. Though his colleagues are listening in with bewilderment, they’re also wowed by the seductive character he creates. When Madison texts “Ron” for an actual date, Gary can’t resist, and they quickly become a couple, albeit with unusual boundaries. Madison believes that her new boyfriend is a hit man who carefully compartmentalizes his life to keep a low profile, and Gary delights in the brashly confident persona that he gets to inhabit. (Even his students notice a change in his personality.) But coincidences abound on city streets, and, when Gary is seen with Madison, suspicions arise. The liaison soon gets riskier still, when Madison’s husband turns up dead.

Linklater’s direction keeps “Hit Man” brisk and jazzy, as does the jovial force of Powell’s performance. Gary’s self-deprecating personality emerges most potently in voice-overs, addressed to the audience, in which he riffs on the idiosyncrasies of law enforcement, the psychology of his felonious clients, the ins and outs of his academic ruminations, and the peculiarity of his situation: Is he the bait or the prey? (“I was having sex with someone who was clearly capable of having a lover killed,” he reflects.) Arjona, vigorously conveying a survivor’s desperation and a romantic adventurer’s impulsiveness, matches Powell beat for beat, feint for feint, and the two generate a subtle yet charged chemistry. Powell—a Texan, like Linklater—got his first major movie role in the director’s largely autobiographical comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” (2016), playing a swaggering, athletic intellectual of high-flown patter. In “Hit Man,” Linklater again endows Powell with both fast-talking high-mindedness and bravado, but here he makes the unlikely connection of those traits the subject of the film.

“Hit Man” revolves around the extent to which Gary’s portrayal of Ron threatens to take over his identity, and, early on, there’s a poignant dramatic exposition of the source of Gary’s drive to impersonate. While teaching a class involving “personality, self, and consciousness,” he notices a visitor in the back of the classroom: his ex-wife, Alicia (Molly Bernard). They chat afterward, and it’s clear that they still have a meaningful friendship, but it’s also hinted that she ended the marriage because of his failure to connect. Behind a mask of bonhomie, he is inexpressive, even impersonal, nerdily caught up in upbeat runs of off-kilter reflections. (At one point, he mentions that overthinking has also made him something of a dud in bed.) But in the bittersweet, if cerebral, intimacy of his chat with Alicia, she tells him about new research that suggests the ease with which, with a little coaching, people can quickly but drastically change their personalities. That chat shivers with premonitions of the perverse erotic bond that will soon unite Madison and Gary—a woman who wants her husband killed and the man she hopes will make it happen.

When Gary gets together with Madison while in the guise of Ron, I was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” There, James Stewart plays a former police detective who falls desperately in love with a woman who turns out to be role-playing as part of a criminal scheme—and, even after discovering her ruse, he remains obsessed with the illusion that she created. In “Hit Man,” Linklater and Powell stand the notion on its head, with Gary creating a persona that does more than attract a woman he loves—with his impersonation, he also unleashes his own long-inhibited virility. This game of multilayered deceptions finds a climactic embodiment in an antic yet explosively tense scene, in which Gary puts his cell phone to exceptional, imaginative use in an effort to deflect suspicion about the clandestine relationship and to keep it beyond the reach of the law.

“Hit Man” proceeds with enticing rapidity, but, by the same token, rushes through Gary’s actorly transformations and races past his backstory, omitting details that would deepen his character. (For instance, the real-life Johnson, who died in 2022, was a Vietnam War veteran.) And, in the haste to wrap things up, the movie’s dénouement falls back on clichés; near the end, the script pushes the takeover of identity by imitation to an absurdly artificial extreme. Yet the moment is also symbolically significant—and its symbolism reaches far beyond the notion of ambient evil to illuminate the reckless passions that an intense sexual relationship comprises and the dangerous vulnerability that a romantic bond entails. Linklater, a longtime master of many genres, is perhaps most celebrated for the romantic dramas of his “Before” trilogy, which famously build the protagonists’ attraction largely through conversation; the talk in “Hit Man,” which conveys the twisted fury of desire, makes this film a far more satisfying and substantial love story. ♦

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A mild-mannered professor assumes the persona of a 'Hit Man' in this twisted tale


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Loosely based on a true story, Richard Linklater's film about a professor working with the police features strong performances, shrewd writing and a light and funny tone.

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An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

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The Interview

Richard linklater sees the killer inside us all.

Credit... Devin Oktar Yalkin for The New York Times

Supported by

David Marchese

By David Marchese

  • June 1, 2024

Richard Linklater’s latest movie, “ Hit Man ,” is a bit of a departure for the director, who has made some of the most acclaimed and influential indie films of the last 30-plus years. The movie, which stars the ascendant Glen Powell, is about a mild-mannered college professor who has a side gig with the New Orleans Police Department, setting up stings by posing as different hit men. It’s a tight, stylish and sexy thriller, with some twisted romance added in, from a filmmaker better known for the ambling rhythms and gently existential tone of beloved classics like “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood” and “Before Sunrise” (not to mention his great comedy “School of Rock,” which exists in a category of its own).

Listen to the Conversation With Richard Linklater

But alongside its pop charms, “Hit Man” still manages to sneak in a provocative exploration of one of Linklater’s pet themes: the nature and malleability of personal identity. It’s also, as so many of the 63-year-old’s films are, a movie that understands the pure cinematic pleasure of watching smart, inquisitive people converse — exploring ideas and philosophies, making one another laugh, testing one another.

It’s the talking that made me fall in love with Linklater’s films, which he almost always writes or co-writes. (He co-wrote “Hit Man” with Powell.) The way his vivid, relatable characters discuss the big questions, with so much soul and hang-looseness, free from any highfalutin airs, has long been something of a north star for me as a movie lover and as a talker. The searching, openhearted discussions in Linklater films are the kind of conversations most meaningful to me in my own life and work. I don’t want to make too big a deal of it, but I can see a pretty clear line from adolescent me sitting around watching all the chatty oddballs in “Waking Life” and “Slacker” to middle-aged me, here and now, speaking with Richard Linklater — who, surprise surprise, sounds a lot like a character from one of his movies.

I’m curious how you think about your identity at 63 years old. Do you feel as if it’s fixed? Do you still have formative experiences? It’s the kind of thing I’ve thought a lot about my entire life: What could transform me? I was probably more in the camp of we’re fixed, give or take whatever little percentage around the edges. So I was interested in this notion lately that, oh, you can change, the personality isn’t fixed. That seems current: this notion of self and identity, gender. I sort of like that it’s all on the table, that everybody’s thinking you kind of are who you say you are. To me, that’s interesting.

Do you have a lot of different identities? Probably as many as anybody else.

What are the different ones? Well, if you get me on a Ping-Pong table — my third rail is athletics. I feel this little rush of competitiveness, which I really don’t have in the world of art at all — or my life even. I’m the guy looking at the world through glass. I was always the guy in the corner thinking about everything. I’m an introvert who gets put in extroverted situations occasionally, and I can play that role. But roles I currently play? I don’t know. It’s nice to care less about it as you get older.

A vintage photograph of Richard Linklater next to a camera.

About what? Consistency maybe? But my purest self is on the set making a movie. That’s the pure me, but it’s manufactured me. Catch me at dinner later, and you get the guy who’s processing the [expletive] of the day and having his lectures about whatever lunatic political ideas that are flowing through my system in real time like everybody else. But I process the world through art, in particular cinema, and that’s the space that I’ve been lucky enough to live in.

What’s a lunatic political idea that’s in your system right now? If you’re unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me at dinner, I will spout off what I’m putting together superficially in my head to have the world make sense, but I don’t have a need to share that publicly. I could share my brain snot with the whole world the way everybody else does, but I don’t see any value in it for me, because I’ve been privileged to make the greatest, most expressive storytelling art form ever invented. So why would I put any effort into these transitory, weird, reactive areas?

I read t he New Yorker profile of you from around the time of “Boyhood.” It said that there was some point in your life as a young man when you were watching 600 movies a year. I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling, especially in early adulthood or late adolescence, of falling in love with an art form. I’m curious about the feeling you get from movies now and how it’s different from what it used to be. I don’t think you can ever replace that initial passion and fury when you’ve discovered your art form and you take it in with your entire being. A lot of it, looking back, it’s like, Oh, that’s what you had to do, transitioning from the real world to your world, and in my case, it was cinema. It was the world of film. It’s this wonderful parallel universe. The arts are this other world you want to live in. But it’s different now. I don’t have the need to see that many movies. I still love movies, still dedicated to it, but you feed yourself in different ways.

What’s a recent movie that blew the top of your head off? That’s a good question. I can’t get the same jolt. I can get a jolt, but it’s a different kind of jolt. I know too much. I’m behind the camera. I know what they’re doing. But what got my cinematic blood circulating? I kind of put “The Zone of Interest” in that category. I was looking at that going: bold . You know, boom, that’s a movie.

You’re working currently on an adaptation of the Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along.” The musical takes place over the course of 20 years, and you’re filming your adaptation over 20 years. So when you finish this movie — I guess with the caveat if you finish this movie — [Laughs.] Yeah, throw that in there, please.

You’re going to be over 80 years old. I’ll be about 80.

The film is going to be kind of a life and career capstone. So tell me: Why that project? You want to hear something that’s technically insane, and I admit it?

Yes. You said capstone to a career at age 80. I’ve never thought that, because I see myself making a film when I’m like 94. I really do. I’ll go along, try to stay in shape, try to be healthy, hope to get lucky. But we’re telling a story that takes place over 20 years, and it’s really important, for this story to work, that you feel those years go by. That was “Boyhood.” You had to feel life going by. And this movie is about long-term friendship and the way life treats people and how that shifts around over 20 years. Everybody involved is clearly doing it because they care, so we just have to assume they’ll keep caring and they’ll care 10 years, 15, 16, 17 more years. You judge people on that. Before I cast someone, I go, You’re a lifer. I did that on “Boyhood.” I asked Patricia Arquette, “What are you going to be doing 12 years from now?” She’s like, “I’m going to probably be looking for a part to play.” I said, “Yeah and I’m going to be trying to make a film, so let’s just start now and we’ll be who we are now and in the future.” That’s all it was. It’s not some huge leap of faith.

It’s blowing my mind that you could say this movie that I’m going to spend 20 years making, that I’m going to finish when I’m 83 — 80. I’ll be 80.

If anybody spent 20 years working on something, you’d say, Well, that says something about who they are and what’s important to them. Telling a well-told story the right way is what means the most to me. Finding the form that meets the content. That’s what a director does: not just the story but how to tell it, what it should look and feel like. I love that Jay DeFeo painting “ The Rose .” Have you ever seen it?

It’s huge, right? It’s huge. It’s like a foot thick because she spent so many years painting layers of paint on it. I find it so moving. It’s a stunning work, but how’d it get so thick? I mean, most artists, we have found the right therapy for our conditions. If you ask any actor, what do film directors have in common, they would probably say stuff like obsession, perfection. We’re just — everyone’s wired a little different. I admit that about myself and just go with it.

Do you have some contingency plan if, I don’t know, your vision starts to go 10 years from now? What happens to “Merrily We Roll Along”? Oh, good thought. Hmm. If I had everything else and the vision went, I would probably get — I don’t know! That’s a good question.

I can make you a list. I would adapt somehow. Or just turn the whole thing over to someone else. I’ll deal with that when it happens. I mean, what’s the alternative? I think of death regularly. But then I have this other side that just expects to play it out, I guess.

You think of death regularly? Sure. Not in a bad way. Just, I see life as kind of fleeting. Is that bad?

That sounds like a question that could be posed by a character in one of your films. [Laughs.] Well, it comes from somewhere. It’s kind of poetic to know I’m not going to be here forever. No one is. I walk through graveyards, and I read obits. I’m not morbid about it. I just acknowledge life passing and all of us being here for a little while, and it’s kind of beautiful that we’re all here, crossing paths at the same moment. I saw that as a kid.

Saw what as a kid? I knew it from the earliest of ages. I liked astronomy and I liked science and knowing how old everything was and, like, oh, we really are insignificant. That scares some people, but I love that feeling. I love that feeling of how random and small we are in the universe. It doesn’t bother me at all. I always thought that was kind of beautiful. Like, instead of being nothing, we’re kind of special. This is kind of a miracle, actually.

I was reading about the poet Delmore Schwartz. He has this poem called “Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon Along the Seine,” and it’s all about the artist as someone who observes life but doesn’t fully participate in it. I read that and was then thinking about you. Because I think of your films as having all these very intimately observed moments of what on the surface just seem like normal life; throughout “Boyhood,” there are countless scenes of just normal life. That’s all it is.

Are you always sitting back and observing life from a distance? Always. That’s the curse. I’m in the moment, I’m out of the moment. But then there’s also kind of a mentality, I think not uncommon to writers and film people, like, this will only be real when I process it through my art form. Something terrible is happening right in front of you: Your loved one is dying or relationship is ending, and you’re processing it not in the moment but, like, I’m going to have a character in a movie someday experience this, and I’m going to try to capture this. But you’re robbing yourself and the person you’re with of that moment. You can’t say you’re not heightened — you have a very heightened awareness of it. You’re bringing a lot of depth to it, but maybe it’s a self-preservation way of taking something and storing it away or processing it — like nothing’s real until I make it work in a movie .

Linklater and I spoke again five days later.

There was something on the tip of my tongue the whole time we spoke before, and I didn’t know if it was OK to bring up: the ending of “Hit Man,” which threw me for a loop. Oh, I’m not a spoiler person. I don’t care.

One idea of the film — and this is something we talked about earlier — is that we all have the power to create our own identity. The film then suggests that this includes the identity of someone capable of murder and living happily after having committed murder. That’s pretty dark! Yes, but, I mean, everybody wants someone dead, probably. I’ve been in the film business over 30 years. Of course I could murder somebody.

Whom do you want dead? No, I don’t want anyone dead. I’ll spread that out: I don’t want any thing dead. But I think there’s a surprising number of people in the world who, to whatever degree voluntary or involuntary, have done something that has ended a life and can compartmentalize it away. A lot of killers among us. Not just soldiers and people who did it for love of country and all. I don’t know if you saw my documentary —

I was going to say! What you’re talking about reminds me of the doc you did for “God Save Texas,” the HBO series. Do you want to tell people what that documentary was about? Well, it’s an exploration of my hometown and the world I grew up in. But it does circle around the death penalty, mainly from the people who are involved in the killing machine of it, the state-sanctioned-murder part of it. I want people to have empathy for the people whose job it was to participate on behalf of the state.

You grew up in Huntsville, which is the town where Texas carries out its state executions? Yeah, it’s where the prison system is based, and they do the executions there.

The questions posed by your documentary about how people find a way to coexist with a moral abomination, which is the death penalty, also reminded me of how you mentioned “The Zone of Interest.” That film, in an even more extreme way, asks similar questions about how people go about their lives right beside something awful. And I wondered, do you feel as if you have an understanding of how people are able to compartmentalize? I don’t know. I’ve always been fascinated by that, how we can compartmentalize. Just think of the way we treat animals. If you eat meat, you are supporting a supercruel, horrible industry that creates incredible pain and suffering.

You’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, right? Yeah. You can’t make it through the modern world without pushing out the horror show that is a lot of life. We all do that. It’s happening all the time. We’re all doing this little psychic dance to let ourselves think we’re not horrible people. You know, we’re suing the state of Texas right now.

I didn’t know that. What are you suing Texas for? My friend, Bernie Tiede —

Oh, the real life inspiration for your movie “Bernie”! Yeah, he’s the lead plaintiff. They have just an unbelievably cruel system where they don’t have to air-condition prison cells. They do federal, they do local jails, they do for animal facilities, but somehow you don’t have to for state, and it’s just horrible. So there’s this big lawsuit that we really think will change a lot of people’s lives. You could dedicate your entire life to trying to make the world a better place. But I pick my spots. Can I bring up something?

Yeah. When you were asking — and it’s a poignant, important question — What’s your relationship now to the work back then? Are you as passionate? I really had to think about that. My analysis of that is, you’re a different person with different needs. A lot of that is based on confidence. When you’re starting out in an art form or anything in life, you can’t have confidence because you don’t have experience, and you can only get confidence through experience. But you have to be pretty confident to make a film. So the only way you counterbalance that lack of experience and confidence is absolute passion, fanatical spirit. And I’ve had this conversation over the years with filmmaker friends: Am I as passionate as I was in my 20s? Would I risk my whole life? If it was my best friend or my negative drowning, which do I save? The 20-something self goes, I’m saving my film! Now it’s not that answer. I’m not ashamed to say that, because all that passion doesn’t go away. It disperses a little healthfully. I’m passionate about more things in the world. I care about more things, and that serves me. The most fascinating relationship we all have is to ourselves at different times in our lives. You look back, and it’s like, I’m not as passionate as I was at 25. Thank God. That person was very insecure, very unkind. You’re better than that now. Hopefully.

Director of photography (video): Aaron Katter

This interview has been edited and condensed from two conversations. Listen to and follow “The Interview” on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , YouTube , Amazon Music or the New York Times Audio app .

David Marchese is a writer and co-host of The Interview , a regular series featuring influential people across culture, politics, business, sports and beyond. More about David Marchese

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narco hitman movie review

‘Hit Man’ Review: Glen Powell’s Double – Triple! – Act

I f you are a regular reader of Texas Monthly , I can only imagine your delight upon the arrival of Netflix's Hit Man , a movie based on an article published by the Austin-based title in 2001. Do you remember? Skip Hollandsworth wrote the piece. It was also called “Hit Man”! As is the case with many of Hollandsworth’s long reads for the publication, it was captivating. But even the most ardent fans of Texan true crime might be a little exasperated at the prospect of a film inspired by a magazine article. We have many. To name a few: The Bling Ring (“The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales in Vanity Fair ) and Hustlers (“The Hustlers at Scores” by Jessica Pressler for New York Magazine ) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (you know that one). Well, how do you think I feel? I am writing an article for a magazine about a film based on an article in a magazine.

But this one is a doozy. Hollandsworth told the story of Gary Johnson , a Houston-based community college philosophy teacher who also worked an (arguably more intriguing) job as an undercover hit man. Not a real hit man, though – he would simply pose as one for disgruntled Texans in police sting operations. Johnson, wearing a wire and presumably a convincing disguise, would lead these people – a wife who hates her husband, a student who hates his classmate – to admit they’re paying for a hitman. He was involved in over 60 of these cases, though not all of them led to an arrest. Hollandsworth calls Johnson “the Laurence Olivier of the field.” (While I do not doubt that he was very good, I am not sure how crowded this field is: he could also be the Nicolas Cage of the field. And the Chuck Norris. And the Jacob Elordi!)

Hit Man , directed by Richard Linklater (the Before trilogy), picks up where Hollandsworth’s article ends, on an “out of character” move from Johnson, who died in 2022. He met up with a young woman who was looking for someone to kill her abusive boyfriend. Instead of carrying out a murder, Johnson referred her to social services, a therapist, and resources so she could escape. As Hollandsworth tells Johnson at the end of the piece: “The greatest hit man in Houston has just turned soft.”

The film, co-written by Linklater and lead actor Glen Powell, turns that line on its head. After Johnson (Powell) meets Madison (Adria Arjona), they begin an affair in which Johnson leans into the sexy side of his fake career. By day he may be a nerdy teacher – you know this because he wears glasses! – and by night he is someone who murders people for money. “She was having sex with someone who had murdered a bunch of people, and I was having sex with someone who was clearly capable of having a lover killed,” Johnson says in the film, “I’m not proud to say this, but it upped my game.” It is easy to buy Powell as a hot dude who could win a fight. That’s probably the criteria to be a Men’s Health cover star (which the 35-year-old Texan was last year, appearing in various states of undress, lifting weights and a fluffy dog).

I found it even easier to buy Powell as a dweeb: the type of man who has cats named Id and Ego (as Johnson did in real life) and discusses whether people can ever change with his ex (the real Johnson divorced three times, and this film gives him a happier ending). He does not look the part, obviously – he wouldn’t be a leading man in waiting if he looked like a dorky teacher – but it comes across as adorably goofy rather than jarringly stupid. And Linklater’s approach is so earnest that you go along with the film, as Johnson’s double life spins out of control.

The third role for Powell is that of convincing movie star. He has had practice: as a cocky upstart in Top Gun: Maverick , he was the romantic lead of sleeper hit Anyone But You (not his first time at the rom-com rodeo, as fans of the superior Set It Up know). He played a bro in another Linklater film, the wonderful college comedy-drama Everybody Wants Some!! . Some of these parts felt like an extension of Powell’s personality, but Hit Man is more convincing. He tries on disguises, he does a bit of romance, he does some comedy. He is occasionally serious. By the end of the not inconsiderable run time (it’s just shy of two hours), Powell wins you over.

Which is handy, because a lot of Hit Man is a little wanting. There is a tedious B-plot about philosophy and personality types, and it is hard to care about the supporting characters, reduced to (not very good) jokes. The whole thing really does rely on Powell whose starry ascent continues. The film is perfectly watchable. But Powell? He’s a hit, man.

‘Hit Man’ is on Netflix today

In Richard Linklater’s latest comedy, Hollywood’s new leading displays some killer ambition

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‘Hit Man’ Star Adria Arjona Joins ‘Criminal’ Series at Amazon

By Joe Otterson

Joe Otterson

TV Reporter

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 03: Adria Arjona attends the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures 3rd Annual Gala Presented by Rolex at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on December 03, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures )

Adria Arjona has joined the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series “ Criminal ,” Variety has learned.

Arjona is now the second confirmed cast member in the series, alongside the previously announced Richard Jenkins . “Criminal” is based on the graphic novels of the same name by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The official description states that the series is “an interlocking universe of crime stories.”

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Arjona can currently be seen in the Richard Linklater film “Hit Man” alongside Glen Powell. She is also set to appear in Zoe Kravitz’ upcoming directorial debut “Blink Twice.” Her other film credits include the 2022 reboot of “Father of the Bride,” “Morbius,” “Triple Frontier,” and “Six Underground.” In television, she led the NBC series “Emerald City” in 2017 and has also had roles in shows like “Andor,” “True Detective,” “Irma Vep,” “Good Omens,” and “Narcos.”

She is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content, The Lede Company and Goodman Genow.

Brubaker will serve as co-showrunner and executive producer on “Criminal” along with Jordan Harper. Phillips also executive produces, as does Sarah Carbiener, and Phillip Barnett. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden will direct the first four episodes. Legendary Television will also serve as an executive producer. The series is produced by Amazon MGM Studios.

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    Narco Hitman: Directed by Joey Johnson. With David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco, D'Angelo Midili, Darlene Sellers. A contract killer takes vengeance against a ruthless drug cartel, resulting in a mysterious puzzle that a small town sheriff must solve in order to stop untold horrors.

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    1/10. So Boring! MIDDLEMYATT 17 December 2020. The art and title for this movie are both deceptive. It has no hits, no action, no violence. It is literally all dialogue, silly, implausible dialogue. The acting is mediocre at best, and the story is weak and ill-conceived.

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    Film Movie Reviews Narco Hitman — 2016. Narco Hitman. 2016. 1h 27m. Drama/Mystery/Thriller. Advertisement. Cast. David S. Hogan (Carson Empman) Angela DiMarco (Clarissa) D'Angelo Midili (Lance ...

  4. Hit Man movie review & film summary (2024)

    Very loosely based on a true story, "Hit Man" stars Glen Powell (who also co-wrote this stellar script with Linklater) as Gary Johnson, a New Orleans-based professor who has been assisting the police department with menial tasks like planting bugs and connecting wires in the surveillance van. When a slimy undercover agent named Jasper (Austin Amelio) gets suspended for 120 days for some ...

  5. Film Review: NARCO HITMAN (2016)

    Film Review: NARCO HITMAN (2016) By Peter 'Witchfinder' Hopkins 21st July 2019 Updated: 21st July 2019 No Comments 2 Mins Read. ... While there is a few similarities, NARCO HITMAN is less about an ass kicking hitman and more about the journey of how he ended up wanting revenge on the cartel. It is well acted and the chemistry between the actors ...

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    A contract killer takes vengeance against a ruthless drug cartel, resulting in a mysterious puzzle that a small town sheriff must solve in order to stop untold horrors. Carson Empman, a famed contract killer, takes vengeance on a powerful drug cartel after his lover is murdered. Known as 'The Ghost', Carson makes a fine living being anonymously ...

  7. ‎Paralytic (2016) directed by Joey Johnson • Reviews, film + cast

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  8. Hit Man Review

    When a professor (Glen Powell) starts acting as a fake hitman, he gets a little too invested in his role — and one of his clients (Adria Arjona). by Sophie Butcher | Updated on 22 05 2024

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  10. 'Hit Man' review: Richard Linklater delivers the year's most ...

    Jasper was also the squad's undercover hitman, and in his sudden absence, the insecure, jorts-wearing Gary is thrown into the field, forced to trade in his wire-frame glasses for a wire when he ...

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    Movie. US. 87 minutes. Released. MPAA. Unrated. Release Date: 11 May 2016 (US) (more) Genre: Thriller (more) When a notorious contract killer is hired by a drug cartel, the job takes an unexpected turn when he makes a connection with one of the cartel's associates, Clarissa.

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    4.3 (247) Narco Hitman is a 2016 action-thriller film, directed by Joey Johnson, starring David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco, and D'Angelo Midili. The movie revolves around the dark world of drug trafficking and organized crime. The story follows a hitman named Martin Corona (David S. Hogan), who is hired by a drug lord to take out a rival gang.

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  17. Hit Man film review

    The star and co-writer is Glen Powell, appearing opposite Adria Arjona while trading on dude-ish likeability and the kind of film-star good looks that almost pass for everyday. His character Gary ...


    A highly successful hitman for a drug cartel is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse after he is betrayed and his lover killed. Hiding out in a small to...

  19. Glen Powell's catchphrase from a new Netflix movie with a near-perfect

    Loosely inspired by a real-life tale, Hit Man stars Top Gun: Maverick's Glen Powell as Johnson, a part-time contractor with the police who stumbles into a role posing undercover as a hitman. From ...

  20. Review: 'Hit Man' is one of the best movies of the year

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  21. Movie Review: 'Hit Man'

    He and Adria Arjona have instant, off-the-chart chemistry from the start, an ingredient that helps make their love scenes in 'Hit Man' more sensual than some of the other screen romance we ...

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  24. A mild-mannered professor assumes the persona of a 'Hit Man' in this

    Loosely based on a true story, Richard Linklater's film about a professor working with the police features strong performances, shrewd writing and a light and funny tone.

  25. Sicario (2015)

    Sicario: Directed by Denis Villeneuve. With Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber. An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

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