Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man” stars Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, a milquetoast philosophy professor who moonlights as an undercover cop set on flushing out people who hire contract killers.
One day, Johnson gets the call to pose as a killer for hire, and proves he has a real talent for impersonation — and arrests. He dons different contract killer personas for different stings. When he meets Madison (Adria Arjona), a woman who wants her husband killed, he tries to talk her out of the decision. Instead, they fall for each other.
A modern-day noir — based on a true story by Skip Hollandsworth that ran 20 years ago in Texas Monthly — is infused with shaggy humor, sexy chemistry between the leads, and a giant twist. Powell and Arjona deliver star turns in Linklater’s Venice screener, and a terrific time at the movies for adults.
Linklater and Powell co-wrote the screenplay. AGC Intl. Reps world sales; Cinetic Media and CAA are handling North American sales.
Linklater first came on the story some 20 years ago. “Skip’s a friend of mine. He also co-wrote my movie ‘Bernie.’ He’s been my true crime buddy with a real nose for interesting characters and stories. So I read everything he writes. I remember reading it way back then and thinking ‘God, what a weird world.’ It stayed with me. I had a couple of meetings over the years about it. Just thinking about, what’s the movie there?” says the director.
Over the pandemic, Powell called Linklater and asked if he had read the article. They started talking about how to make it a movie. Linklater recounts musing, “What does it need? Well, it needs a third act. What about that girl? You know, the one he lets off. It’s kind of pretty much the end of the article. What if we develop that relationship?”
The film upends the film noir tropes — sure, nice guy Johnson falls for the beautiful Madison, but it’s there that any similarity to “Double Indemnity” ends.
Powell gets to show off his versatility via different hitman personas, but the particular identity of “Ron,” which Madison falls for, seeps into him the most.
“You know the real Gary did those, but, but we really, really pushed that. He had fun with that,” Linklater says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. Can we get away with this?’”
“Hit Man” definitely adopts a 1970s feel — it’s sexy with a touch of madcap humor. “I definitely felt like I was in another decade with this movie. .. this is my ’70s or ’80s film,” Linklater says, adding that audiences can expect things to get steamy. “I read all the time ‘Oh, there’s not sex in movies anymore.’ I was like, no, we’re going to have sex.”
“Adria is so wonderful. And they were wonderful together and jumped in and gave it everything they had. It’s like a dark, romantic comedy,” he says.
The action unfolds in New Orleans, not Linklater’s home of Texas — Houston to be exact, where Gary Johnson also lived. Linklater notes that “we’re a super indie film and Texas has zero incentives [at that time]. The state has recently passed film and TV incentives.”
Louisana’s incentives for filming, as well as New Orlean’s distinct character, made shooting there an easy decision. “It’s just a combo of lawlessness and great people. That’s kind of like our movie.”
- Richard Linklater Talks Crafting ‘Hit Man’ Script With ‘Top Gun’ Star Glen Powell
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