Glen Powell's Hit Man Quickly Conquered Netflix's Number One Spot

As of this writing, a Richard Linklater film holds the number one spot on Netflix's Top 10 chart. Considering the genre-spanning nature of the writer/director's versatile career, this outcome wasn't necessarily a given, but according to FlixPatrol, a site that tracks the popularity of titles on streaming services, "Hit Man" debuted this past Friday and has been number one in the U.S. every day since.

Linklater might be the best director in the country at making pure hang-out movies. He excels at crafting compelling characters, dropping them into easy-going situations, and giving the audience the experience of spending a couple of hours with them as they amble through international cities (the "Before" trilogy), experience the ups and downs of growing up ("Boyhood"), make their way through the last day of school ("Dazed and Confused"), or get to know their college baseball teammates ("Everybody Wants Some!!"). "Hit Man" has a bit of that specific Linklater breeziness to it, but this script, which the director co-wrote with the film's star, the currently-red-hot charisma machine known as Glen Powell, also toys with one of the main themes that runs throughout much of Linklater's filmography: Identity. Who are we, and can we change?

In the case of "Hit Man," those questions become literal as Gary Johnson (Powell), a New Orleans philosophy professor who moonlights for the local police department, slips into multiple hit man personas as he tries to arrest potential murderers, doing research into each of his subjects and wearing elaborate costumes and adopting accents tailored to each person's image of what a hit man might look and sound like. Naturally, the persona he spends the most time in is a guy named Ron, whose looks and personality are essentially just "the movie star persona of the real-life Glen Powell," which works wonders on a possible subject played by Adria Arjona.

Hit Man shot to Netflix's number one slot

On paper, there's a lot to recommend this film. Everyone involved with it has done great work in the past (Arjona was terrific in "Andor," and Linklater and Powell have worked together a few times already, most notably on 2016's instant classic "Everybody Wants Some!!"), the premise is fantastic, and the film is willing to get sexier than a lot of modern Hollywood movies do these days. (For the love of god, bring back sex scenes in mainstream American cinema!) Lots of my colleagues have declared this movie a masterpiece, but  for me personally, as someone who was ready to fall head over heels for it, "Hit Man" never really came together for me in a satisfying way. It's charming, yes, but it always feels like there's something missing — like the film is capable of delving deeper into its ideas, but never really does. Our review reflects that sentiment as well: There's an awesome movie in here somewhere, but the final version doesn't quite live up to the film's potential.

Oh, well. The movie is definitely serving its purpose from Netflix's perspective. The streamer won a bidding war for the rights to "Hit Man" after it played at last year's Toronto International Film Festival after several traditional studios passed on the movie, and the fact that it's now the most streamed movie on Netflix not only in the U.S., but in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Iceland, Australia, and more must feel like justification for the $20 million Netflix shelled out for it.