This Action-Packed Rom-Com Just Reached #1 on Netflix, & We Can See Why

It's inspired by a true story

netflix hit man
Brian Roedel / Courtesy of Netflix

Not even a week has passed since Hit Man made its streaming debut on Netflix, but the romantic comedy is already proving to be a major success on the streaming service.

Within two days of its Netflix release, Hit Man, which originally premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival in September 2023, hit number one on the streaming giant's top ten list of the most-watched movies, surpassing titles like Under Paris, Wonder and How to Rob a Bank. Considering the solid cast, the intriguing plot and the sizzling chemistry between the leads, we can already see why fans love it. Oh, and did we mention that it's inspired by a true story? (More on this later.)

In the movie, Glen Powell stars as Gary Johnson, a psychology and philosophy professor who works undercover as a fake hitman to assist the police with their sting operations. Gary is so dedicated to his secret gigs that he carefully researches each suspect and adopts unique personas for each one. Unfortunately for him, things get rather complicated when he's tasked with soliciting a confession from a very attractive married woman who wants her husband killed.

Although it certainly falls under the rom-com umbrella, Hit Man, will make you feel like you're watching an action thriller one moment and a screwball comedy the next. Director Richard Linklater told Tudum, “I think that’s an attribute of the movie—it’s about a lot of things. It’s about identity and self and passion. But on a plot level, it’s just a guy who gets in a little too deep. His passions lead him in a direction where he’s deceiving someone he’s in love with, and being someone else. They have to deal with those repercussions.” 

Linklater also discussed how the film challenges the idea that professional hit men are easy to find in real life. He explained, “They don’t exist at the retail level, and they’d be so easy to entrap and arrest. Regardless, the average, aware, intelligent person goes through life thinking [hit men] are real…The notion that someone you’ve never met, who’s this icy professional you meet for five minutes, is going to risk the death penalty—I think as a culture we enjoy believing in it.”

He added, “The fantasy of a hit man occupies a place in our brain because it feels like a simple solution to life’s complicated problems.”

netflix hit man 1
Brian Roedel / Courtesy Netflix

As it turns out, the plot is loosely based on real-life hit man Gary Johnson, who passed away in 2022. His story was published in Texas Monthly by Skip Hollandsworth, and like the main character in the Netflix film, Johnson worked with the police as a fake contract killer. He was also offered an opportunity to set up a sting to catch a woman who hired him to kill her abuser, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Both Linklater and Powell agreed to "cut loose" and took creative liberties as they expanded on the real story—which explains why Powell's portrayal of Gary differs from how he's described in the article. Linklater said, “His life seems so safe and binary for doing such a weirdly dangerous job. And then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh, what if this person got stuck as a dangerous hit man, and what would that look like? How would that change the man? There’s kind of an inherent desire to experience this other life.”

It's worth noting that the main love story and major plot twists are completely fictional, but boy, do they make for a fascinating story. The cast includes Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio and Retta, and you can now stream the rom-com on Netflix.

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nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...