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Hit Man Premiere Paramount Theatre

Glen Powell Plays A Pretend Hit Man in “Hit Man”

ManAustin’s own Richard Linklater and Netflix screened his latest film, “Hit Man,” to a packed audience on Wednesday, May 15th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. Glen Powell plays a pretend hitman in the movie. Before the showing of the comedy/film noir, lead and co-writer, Glen Powell, was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame, established in 2001 by Linklater to honor those Texas natives who excel in the film world. Powell was born and educated in Austin, Texas.

The film about the real-life pretend hitman was a delight. Hit Man will stream on Netflix after a June 7, 2024 theatrical release. It will be showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Chain in Austin; the 1 hour 55 minute film is well worth your time. It is based on a true story, but poetic license has admittedly been taken with the plot. There really was a Gary Johnson. Johnson was profiled by Skip Hollandsworth in “Texas Monthly” magazine. Johnson was a college professor and tech guy turned mole for the New Orleans police department.  Linklater, who knew the man during his life, described him as “the chillest dude ever.” The film was shot in New Orleans. Street signs with Piety/Pleasure in close-ups add subtle humor to the plot.

THE PLOT

Glen Powell plays pretend hit man in "Hit Man."

Glen Powell, co-writer and star of “Hit Man,” onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, on May 15, 2024.

The synopsis on IMDB describes the plot this way:  “A professor moonlighting as a hit man of sorts for his city police department descends into dangerous, dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to a woman who enlists his services.” I was reminded of “BlacKkKlansman,” where the real-life exploits of Ron Stallworth as a Black man who joined the Ku Klux Klan were explored. The difference in tone between the two films, however, is vast. That’s good news for the audience.

This one is a screwball comedy/film noir with an original plot and excellent acting by Powell, co-star Adria Arjona (“Father of the Bride”), and Retta (“Good Girls”). Music, Cinematography, Costuming, Acting—all are uniformly excellent. The screenplay, co-written by Linklater and Powell, was hammered out during phone calls during Covid. It premiered at the Italian film festival in September, during the writers’ strike, meaning that Linklater appeared pretty much solo.

Since the title character, Gary Johnson, is a college professor, we get uncharacteristic depth of thought about life and “the eternal mystery of human consciousness and behavior.” Powell’s character says, “I had a knack for being the person they needed me to be” of his hit man persona Ron he adopted and says, “I had somehow found my stage.”

Hit Man Premiere Paramount Theatre

The talented (and good-looking) Powell, seen in the comedy “Anyone But You” as well as “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022), has been working towards a Hollywood career since age 14, when he appeared in “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.” His remarks before the film reveal an Austin native who loves Texas and loves making movies. (“The most fun job on the planet.”)

THE SCRIPT

Retta is in the pretend hit man film "Hit Man."

Retta at the “Hit Man” screening in Austin on May 15, 2024.

The screenwriting duo (Linklater and Powell) had a great time writing the script during Covid (mostly by phone). The cast contributed by improvising some of the best lines that stayed in the film. Co-star Sanjay Rao (Phil) said his favorite line (of Retta’s) that remained in the final film was her remark that she would “rip out my IUD for Ron,” the cool guy persona that Gary Johnson portrayed. (That line brought a big laugh from the crowd).

It is not often that we get a philosophical discussion of the difference between cat people and dog people in a film about a pretend hit man. “Dogs are too needy. They’re like people. We beg for more…embarrass ourselves for the scraps of others.” Another line that amused me was the remark that a man sitting alone, reading Catcher in the Rye is “historically speaking never a good sign.”

The depth of the discussion(s) of change and role-playing,  Id versus Ego, and morality is unusual for a comedy (about a pretend hitman) that we might be tempted to term “lightweight.” It IS lightweight, in the sense that the expert ensemble has turned a complex plot with a lot of frothy humor into an exploration of many deeper issues, one being change.

A few lines to illustrate:

Cast of "Hit Man" in Austin on May 15, 2024. GLen Powell plays a pretend hit man in "Hit Man."

(L to R) Director Richard Linklater, Glen Pwell, Adria Arjoria and Retta.

“Your reality will change over time in ways that you cannot even imagine.”

“Seize the identity you want for yourself. Life is short. You gotta’ live on your own terms.”

And, in a line that is a throwback to Tom Cruise’s line in Risky Business, “Sometimes, you just gotta’ make a move.”

THE SEX SCENES

Adria Arjoria, co-star of "Hit Man," in which Glen Powell plays a pretend hit man.

Co-star Adria Arjoria of “Hit Man” in Austin on May 15, 2024.

Editor Sandra Adair (who visited Powell’s classroom when he was in high school), after editing one of the film’s truly hot sex scenes said, “I thought the screen was going to melt in the editing room!” The film’s 35-year-old leading man supposedly broke up with his model girlfriend in 2023.

There are so well-done and believable sex scenes that it’s hard to select just one. There’s the dancing scene in a nightclub called Virgo. There’s the tub scene. There’s the role play when Aria’s character, Madison “Maddy” Figueros, dresses up as a flight attendant to play seductress. The chemistry onscreen is hot, hot, hot. After the movie, during the Q&A, Adria Arjana said, “You have seen a lot of me tonight.” (Again, laughter).

The IMDB website gives the release date as June 7th. It’s a very good movie. It’s original, and you’ll enjoy it on many levels. The cell phone scene alone is worth the price of admission. That scene is complex and operates on three different levels in this pretend hitman film.

Don’t miss this Hit Man. And remember when discussing the plot’s resolution: “There are no absolutes, oral or epistemological, in life.”

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