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In Theaters


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Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

“You know, people feel almost disappointed to learn that hitmen don’t really exist,” Gary narrates.

“It’s a total pop-culture fantasy. But because hitmen have been a staple of books, movies and TV for the last 50 years, good luck getting anyone to believe their existence is all a myth.”

In truth, Gary’s part-time work for the New Orleans Police Department as an undercover hitman in murder-for-hire cases couldn’t be further from the truth of who he is. You see, the real Gary is a college psych and philosophy professor. He likes birding and electronics. He lives alone with two cats.

But when he enters the field, he plays an entirely different role. For one meeting, Gary adopts a Russian accent and wig. For another, he takes on the role of a skeet-shooting redneck. Each character he plays is a disguise donned to cater to the fantasy of what those looking for hitmen believe such a man looks like. And when the target confesses to wanting someone murdered and hands over the cash for payment, that’s when the police swoop in with enough evidence to put the person in jail.

At least, that’s how it usually works.

But that was before Gary (or, this time, the suave Rob) sat down with Madison. She’d contacted him in the hope that he might eliminate her abusive and controlling husband. And “Rob” senses that she’s not a killer at heart. So instead, he tells her to take her money and use it to start a new life—and if she needs someone to talk to, she can text him.

Well, Madison does walk away. And she does text him. Madison and “Rob” hit it off. And soon, Gary finds himself pretending to be Rob the hitman more often than he’s Gary.

And soon, all that faking just may come back to bite him.

Positive Elements

Gary and his crew work a dangerous job and occasionally have to deal with volatile people. However, they do their work to save the lives of potential victims.

When Gary recognizes that Madison is in an abusive relationship, he decides to counsel her to use the money she was planning to pay for his hitman services and instead use it to start a new life.

Spiritual Elements

We’re told that the real Gary Johnson was a Buddhist. The film’s Gary, while pressuring a suspect, attempts to confirm the man’s commitment to hiring a hitman. “And if you are serious now, are you one day gonna find Jesus and be so overburdened by guilt and remorse and confess your sins?” He questions. For another hitman costume, he wears a cross. People frequently respond to others with “amen.”

The film’s Gary describes Sigmund Freud’s perhaps pseudo-spiritual conception of the self being made up of the id, ego and superego. Gary tells his students, “There are no absolutes, whether moral or epistemological.” (We should point out, however, that making such a statement is self-contradictory, as stating “There are no absolutes” is itself an absolute statement.)

Sexual Content

A few scenes show Gary and Madison having sex or being otherwise naked. We see Madison’s breasts, and we hear sensual noises as the two engage with one another. Later, we see Madison in lingerie. There are a couple references to oral sex, and the two kiss each other’s lips and bodies. Madison and Gary have a suggestively sensual interaction at a nightclub. Narration attempts to explain what makes someone good at sex. Gary’s coworkers make jokes about how they’d have sex with one of Gary’s hitman personas. There’s a reference to genitals.

A bar prominently displays various LGBT pride flags. At a strip club, women dance in revealing lingerie. Men are shirtless. Gary’s coworker, Jasper, reveals that he’s had sex with some suspects.

Violent Content

A man is suffocated, and it’s made to look like a suicide. Another person is shot and killed offscreen. We see various depictions of hitmen from cinema shooting or strangling people. A man is hit in the crotch. Someone is threatened with a gun.

We hear descriptions of how people want Gary to kill their target. Gary likewise tells them how he might accomplish the sordid deed. In one case, he describes how he would cut off someone’s head and explode it with dynamite, feed the body to alligators and cut off and discard the body’s fingertips.

A child is described as a “future school shooter.” We’re told that Jasper was put on paid leave for beating up a group of teenagers. Gary’s class discusses the ethical question of how to punish a man who is “killing, raping and pillaging” other tribes.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word is used more than 80 times, including a handful of instances which are preceded by “mother.” The s-word is used more than 25 times. Crudities for male and female genitalia are occasionally uttered. We also hear multiple instances of “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “sl-t” and “d–chebag.”

God’s name is used in vain 10 times, including three pairings with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is likewise taken in vain once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A man jokes about doing cocaine. Someone falls unconscious as a result of being drugged. We hear a reference to a drug deal. Characters smoke cigars or cigarettes. People drink beer, and a guy drinks from a flask.

Other Negative Elements

Someone helps another person get away with murder. People often want to kill others to obtain money.


It may come as a surprise that Gary Johnson was a real man. And yes, like his film counterpart, he was a fake hitman-for-hire, commissioned to “kill” more than 60 people in his time working as a police officer in Houston.

Some of his encounters, which you can read about in the unvarnished Texas Monthly article upon which the movie is based, make it into the film. And yes, the meetup in which Johnson convinced a woman not to hire him and instead referred her to social services and therapy also happened.

But that’s where Hit Man’s plot veers from reality as it imagines a scenario in which Gary slowly but surely fell in love with that woman, leading to a relationship full of passion, deception and danger.

That passion and danger hits our screen in full force: explicit sex scenes, a bit of violence and heavy language sully this embellished biography. So while the story is certainly interesting, Hit Man unfortunately misses the mark.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”