Hit Man review – Glen Powell and Adria Arjona sizzle in Richard Linklater’s witty crime caper

<span>‘Incendiary’: Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in Hit Man. </span><span>Photograph: Netflix</span>
‘Incendiary’: Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in Hit Man. Photograph: Netflix

A crisp, witty crime caper; an outlaw romance; a popcorn movie that also namechecks Nietzsche and offers up a deft interrogation of the nature (and malleability) of identity. Like its chameleonic central character, Richard Linklater’s Hit Man can be whatever you want it to be. But mostly, it’s an unabashed blast of fun. So what if the screenplay, co-written by Linklater and star Glen Powell, plays fast and loose with the facts; a “somewhat true story”, it’s based on the life of the late Gary Johnson and a 2001 feature in Texas Monthly magazine. But you suspect this master of disguise would have trouble recognising himself here.

Powell plays Johnson, a nerdy, divorced college professor who lives with a pair of cats named Id and Ego and talks with heartbreaking enthusiasm about bird watching. But he also works part-time on sting operations for the New Orleans police department, graduating from background tech work to posing as a hired killer to bust potential clients. Then he meets Madison (Adria Arjona), whom he talks out of putting a hit on her abusive husband. Inevitably they hit it off – a pairing that matches George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez locked in the boot of a stolen car in Out of Sight for incendiary sexual chemistry. Hit Man takes Powell’s amiable, supporting actor appeal (Top Gun: Maverick) and hones it to a star quality of such laser-beam intensity, you start to fear for your eyesight. It breathes fresh life into the played-out hitman genre – and contains what may be one of the top five winks in movie history.

  • In select UK and Irish cinemas now/on Netflix from 7 June