Glen Powell Proves He’s A Damn Movie Star In ‘Hit Man’

The last time we spoke to Glen Powell, he was right on the cusp of breaking through, and he knew it. Think about if you played “the cool guy” in Top Gun: Maverick. You knew what you brought to that role. You knew how just darn good that movie was; the sky’s the limit … but then Top Gun: Maverick gets delayed for two years because of the pandemic. For two long years, Powell would just have to remain “the charismatic fellow from Everybody Wants Some!

As you know, eventually Top Gun: Maverick did come out and became a sensation. It made the most money of any movie in 2022 (Avatar: The Way of Water was technically the biggest film of the year, but made most of its money in 2023) and went on to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. And who got to be the Han Solo of Top Gun: Maverick? That’s right, Hangman comes back at the last minute to save the day. And Glen Powell, almost overnight, was no longer, “the charismatic fellow from Everybody Wants Some!.”

As a quick aside, speaking of Han Solo, I’ve kind of become fascinated with Harrison Ford’s movies between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. We all know his movies between Empire and Return of the Jedi – ahem, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner – but his post-Star Wars films don’t have much of a footprint. I watched The Frisco Kid and Hanover Street. Fun fact: in The Frisco Kid there is no character called The Frisco Kid. It’s … fine, and kind of fun watching Ford and Gene Wilder do some comedy together. Hanover Street is actually pretty good and I’d recommend it. (I happen to like a lot of Peter Hyams movies.) You get a pretty good sense of where Ford is going as a leading man. But as we know that doesn’t really happen until Raiders. My point is, Powell doesn’t have to wait until after Top Gun 3 to get his first true great movie as a leading man.

With Hit Man (which makes its Sundance premiere today), it certainly helps that Powell re-teams with his Everybody Wants Some! director Richard Linklater. And Powell gets the best of both worlds here: he gets to play against type as a meek nerd. And also gets to play, again, the coolest guy in the world. So he gets to show off his acting chops while also giving Hangman fans what they want: their cool pal Glen.

In this sort of true (but not real) story, Powell plays Gary Johnson, a divorced New Orleans professor who lives alone with his two cats and seems like a nice enough guy. He has a side hustle working as an audio tech for the local police department during undercover stings. One of those stings is against a man who is looking to hire a hitman (the movie tells us over and over there are no such thing as hitmen, no matter how much people want to believe they are real), and once the real cop who is supposed to do the job becomes unavailable, Gary takes his place and is … surprisingly great at the job.

It’s here Gary becomes a ruthless, cold-blooded killer, at least as far as the sting targets assume. And, frankly, pretty cool. And Gary gets really into his disguises as he busts person after person who is willing to pay money to have someone they know killed. Though, using a persona he calls Ron, he feels bad for a woman named Maddy (Adria Arjona) and talks her out of going forward with the hit, to the chagrin of his bosses at the police department. He then falls in love with Maddy and Maddy falls in love with Gary. Well, there are two problems here: the ethics of dating a suspect and that Maddy is in love with Ron, not Gary.

As the story goes on, Hit Man gets purposely more preposterous. To the point I couldn’t help but wonder, wait, I thought this was based on a true story? There’s no way anything close to this happened! Well, I’m correct, as during the end credits we learn some stuff was “made up.”

With Top Gun: Maverick, Hangman was, well, let’s be honest here, pretty fucking awesome, but he’s still a supporting character. It’s here that Powell has to carry Hit Man on his back. And he plays so many characters in this movie posing as the numerous hitmen, if he doesn’t work, obviously the film doesn’t work. Powell proves with Hit Man he’s not just your cool new best friend anymore, he’s pretty great at playing the dope, too. And it’s great to see Powell building out his resume in projects that aren’t superhero movies, which, we’ve seen, have a tendency to not make the actor playing the superhero that famous beyond that particular superhero. And in a world where there really aren’t that many movie stars anymore … well, I think we all just found one.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.