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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Reel Rundown: Ever-present Glen Powell star of Netflix’s latest assassin movie

Glen Powell stars in Netflix’s “Hit Man.”  (Netflix)
By Dan Webster For The Spokesman-Review

One of the basic rules of newswriting says you don’t begin a story with a question lede. But I have to ask: When did Glen Powell become an in-demand movie star?

Until recently, other than a few secondary roles (“Everybody Wants Some,” “Hidden Figures”), you hardly heard of the guy.

Then all of a sudden he’s one of the notable characters in “Top Gun: Maverick,” he plays opposite Sydney Sweeney in the rom-com “Anyone But You,” and theaters are full of the trailers for the upcoming movie “Twisters” (due out July 19) in which he has the lead opposite Daisy Edgar-Jones.

Netflix, too, has become its own version of a Powell fanboy as he is the star of “Hit Man,” the “somewhat true story” that Richard Linklater directed based on a highly imaginative screenplay that he co-wrote with Powell.

I say “highly imaginative” because, though based on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth about a real-life person, Linklater and Powell took the article and embellished it so much they flag the resulting film as a “somewhat true story.”

Powell stars as Gary Johnson, a guy who doubles – hard though this is to believe – as a college professor and undercover operative for the New Orleans Police Department. His specialty: posing as a hitman to snare people who wanted to hire him to … well, kill someone.

(The real Johnson worked for the Houston, Texas, police and taught psychology courses at a local community college.)

In Linklater’s movie, we watch as Johnson, a button-down kind of guy lecture his students about breaking out of their everyday lives and seeking challenges in life. He does this even as he drives his Honda Civic to work, only to come home to a house devoid of life except for some birds and his pet cats.

Then one day he is roped into taking over the undercover job of another cop, Jasper (Austin Amelio), who has been suspended. And he is a natural fit.

Much of the fun of “Hit Man” is watching Powell transform from his Walter Mitty natural self into a number of various adopted personalities, each one based on what Gary thinks the potential client would expect to see.

But his most successful personality is Ron, a tough but gentle-talking character he becomes in response to a bid from Madison (Adria Arjona), a woman seeking someone to kill her abusive husband.

And this is where “Hit Man” goes off, rejecting truth for a fantasy in which Ron takes pity on Madison, talking her out of her plan. And later, when she contacts him again, they begin an affair, one that goes against Gary’s very professionalism.

Even worse, their affair becomes ever more complicated when Madison’s husband ends up … well, let’s not add in too many plot spoilers. Half the fun of “Hit Man” is experiencing the fantasy that Powell and Linklater have created.

That fantasy, by the way, works largely because of Powell, a natural movie star with a studly kind of offbeat handsomeness. His appeal is amplified by his willingness to not only dull his good looks with a variety of disguises but even more so to also play the humdrum Gary.

You may not know Glen Powell now, but you will – and soon.