Netflix’s ‘Hit Man’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Gary Kill Jasper?

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Something so loud was a little unexpected from Richard Linklater, the auteur justifiably celebrated for his more serene discourse on some of the most existential questions of life. With Glen Powell donning a never-seen-before personality (or more than one) in Hit Man, Richard Linklater found the perfect vessel for what he was aiming for—an explosive mix of succulent bites of thrill and contemplative monologues that are a refreshing shift from the haughty philosophical discourse crowding indies. 

Spoiler Alert


What Is The Film About?

Yes, there’s a real guy and a fake contract killer behind Glen Powell’s professor-turned-mole, Gary Johnson. But Hit Man doesn’t get too hung up on exposition. So just getting to know Powell’s Gary well enough should tell you who he is, who he wants to be, and who he ends up becoming by the end of the film. Gary might be a bit too vanilla to be the most popular professor at the college where he teaches psychology and philosophy. But the otherwise timid guy whose social life consists of his two cats, Id and Ego, has a rather exciting side gig as the tech guy for the New Orleans Police Department. No, he doesn’t crack codes and hack stuff. He works with the mics and cameras in stint operations, where a cop pretends to be a hitman. Jasper’s poorly-timed suspension is the only reason Gary’s been pushed into the job of a faux hitman. And even though he’s scared out of his wits, Gary turns out to be a natural at faking what he needs to fake to get a confession out. 


What makes Gary good at being a fake hitman?

His muted personality is a pretty good reason for his students underestimating Gary. But whatever they may make of him based on the car he drives, underneath it all, Gary’s actually the kind of guy who’d seize the most random opportunity if it’s exciting enough. He has no crisis over who he is. But I don’t doubt that his ex-wife, who happens to be his best friend, is kind of on point about his aversion to change. Now you might think that’s synonymous with a reluctance to grow. But I think that’d be an unfair generalization considering Gary does entertain the possibility of change on a macro level when his ex-wife explains how a person can transform by embodying who they want to be. And that undoubtedly plays a part in the interest Gary takes in his new job. He gets to play different people tailored around the “client’s” personality. And in a way, this is kind of like wearing different personalities to see if any attribute seems worth acquiring. Another reason Gary’s so taken by this new job is his never-ending fascination with human consciousness and psychology. He gets to meet all sorts of people in the field. From a wife planning a “suicide” for her husband to a kid looking to become an orphan by offing his mom, the people Gary meets enrich his knowledge of the types of crises that can push a person to have someone killed. And like he says, it’s mostly love that’s curdled into hate. He’s not really in it for the satisfaction of putting some bad apples behind bars, although I’m certain that the convictions give him a sense of accomplishment. Gary’s practically conducting a social and personal experiment with the successful stings that have nullified the chances of Jasper ever getting his job back. 


Why does Gary break the law?

Here’s the thing about Hit Man. The existential doubts Gary addresses through his lectures in the classroom and the conversations he has with people often surface in his actions. He didn’t go into his meeting with Madison as Ron thinking he’d be committing some big no-noes in his line of work. But they clicked right off the bat. And recognizing how desperate someone as sweet as Madison has to be to have murder on her mind is certainly a factor in how Gary handles the operation. So instead of tricking a confession out of her, Gary leaves her with some solid advice. If your husband’s an abusive control freak, it’s best to give divorce a chance before putting a bounty on his head. The circumstances were just right for him to feel like he should give love a chance with Madison. Ethics take a backseat as Gary takes his ex-wife’s advice of seeing a woman to heart and jumps at the first opportunity he gets. And aside from the thrill of the wrong and the dangerous, there’s one more perk to his affair with Madison.

Gary is not particularly memorable, and that too, voluntarily. But while that’s something that adds to his skills as a person who can pretend to be someone else entirely, maybe Gary wanted to see how charm looks on him. And what Gary saw, Gary absolutely went bonkers over. Not just Gary, though. Everyone who’s met Ron or ever heard him talk is totally enamored by the man. Like I said, Gary wasn’t in trouble with who he was. But being Ron felt like being himself, only a hell of a lot more confident and groovy. It was only because Gary was so content with himself that he wasn’t insecure about leading a double life. After all, he did get the “contract” out of the way with his new love, and they both agreed on keeping things strictly non-invasive. Madison chased the rush of being with someone who killed for a living but wouldn’t hurt a hair on her head—something I don’t think was at all her experience with her husband. And Gary was in love with the idea of getting romantically entangled with someone who was capable of planning a partner’s death. And somewhere down the line, they found it difficult to be without each other for no reasonable reason. They were in love. And Gary, who was actually kind of absorbing a lot of Ron’s qualities into his “real” being, took all the precautions to minimize risk and maximize happiness, just like Jungian understanding of the middle ground between Id and Superego. So the man’s named his cats after Freudian theories. Gary really couldn’t be any more convincing as an actual cat person. 


Does Madison kill her husband?

What makes Hit Man such an effective blend of genres is how it picks the unlikeliest story to observe a man’s personal growth. There’s tension aplenty around the trouble Gary keeps inviting. But it’s not just how he saves his neck every step of the way that’s fascinating about this peculiar journey. The real spectacle is how Gary is starting to pick and choose the traits he wants to keep while seamlessly shedding the ones that serve no purpose. Self-doubt has been chucked in the dumpster of qualities that shackle Gary by the time Jasper sniffs out something fishy going on between him and Madison. They’ve been spotted sharing a sundae, too, right after Gary cut Madison’s husband Ray down to size with a gun to his face. Well, at least we know for sure that Maddy wasn’t making anything up about what a buffoon her husband was. But Ray’s bruised ego has compelled him to put out a hit on his wife and her new hunky boyfriend. And who does he call to hire for the job? Our hitman extraordinaire, Gary. Gary does intimidate him into running the hell out of dodge. But Madison goes a step ahead and puts a bullet in Ray’s chest, just like “Ron” taught her. With Jasper breathing down his neck, waiting to catch him in a lie and nail him for good, Gary’s in the hot seat. What makes it all the more dicey is the fact that Gary’s come clean about the whole fake hitman shindig to his girlfriend. What can I say? The controlled environment in an experiment can’t always be convenient.


Does Gary kill Jasper?

In Hit Man, the most crucial skill that’s made Gary the best in the business is his knack for improv. All he has when he’s going into these risky meetings are snippets of information on his clients. Gary pulls it off by improvising based on what he’s getting from the person he wants to convince that he’s the real deal. And when the stakes are high in his personal life, Gary’s only shot at getting away with being an accomplice to a murder hinges on this very art he’s deemed a master of. Things get rather grim when Madison becomes the prime suspect. Six months prior to his death, Ray increased his life insurance by a whopping $1 million. And killing a spouse for insurance money has to be the first possible angle the cops have got to check out. The trouble is, Jasper’s at the heart of the investigative team. Everything he’s saying makes sense. And unfortunately for Gary, everything he’s saying puts him in a tight spot. 

Jasper didn’t come off as a worthy adversary to someone as intellectually skilled as Gary at first. And he didn’t magically become super conniving down the line. The circumstances favored Jasper. I bet Gary’s just realizing that he never actually minimized the risks after all. How could he manipulate the outcome when so much about the whole thing was out of his control? So he’s in a bit of a pickle when Jasper gets the team on board about sending Gary to get the murder confession out of Madison. The odds aren’t quite in his favor. One slip from Madison can end it all. But Gary pulls this near-impossible mission off by typing up instructions for Madison, letting her know she’s being recorded. And Madison’s nothing if not the best at improvising on Gary’s instructions. No wonder these two have fallen so in love in such a short time. 

Being one-upped by Gary both times he tried to knock him down hasn’t quite curbed Jasper’s enthusiasm. He has one more card up his sleeve. So he shows up at Madison’s place just like any self-respecting blackmailer would. Gary walking in gives him all the answers, if Madison hasn’t already. And he’s expecting a big fat check if he is to keep Madison and Gary from going to the clink. To tell you the truth, I think Madison’s got a homicidal side to her. She’s actually drugged Jasper’s beer. And when he falls to the floor mid-threat, I think even Gary acknowledges that Ray’s murder wasn’t entirely out of necessity. But here’s what’s interesting: The more Gary’s been embodying Ron, the blurrier the line between the two personalities has gotten. It may also be the effect of getting to know so many people with the instinct to kill off a problem that’s normalized murder to Gary, to some extent at least. On some level, he’s even started to justify it. In a social experiment sort of activity with his students, Gary once talked about the historical significance of ending a problematic person’s influence on society by killing them. It’s a very Ron-like thing he does, acknowledging that there’s a place for murder in the bigger picture of social evolution. So it’s really no surprise that Gary’s come to the point where his homicidal instinct has been activated. Don’t they say that everyone can be a killer if the circumstances are dire enough? The moment Gary puts a bag over Jasper’s head, effectively killing him, marks his descent into the rejection of morality and his rise to a more compounded personality.

In Hit Man‘s ending, Gary’s passing down his hard-earned lesson to his students as they head off to their finals. It’s evident that some time has passed, and Gary’s internalized Ron so much that he’s started dressing better at work. He’s practically telling his own story when he urges the kids to keep their minds open to the possibility of the unexpected. Reality is unpredictable and mercurial. Being open to something extremely volatile has given Gary a family. The vows Gary and Madison took over a dying Jasper have weathered the test of time. They’ve made a family of four, with very vague yet real answers on the tips of their tongues whenever the kids get curious about how mom and dad met. I guess Gary wasn’t so wary of change after all. But like Gary’s ex-wife said, the old personality doesn’t fade away; it only gets dialed down. Gary hasn’t exactly let go of everything about his old self. Old Gary loved birds. And the new Gary, thrilled to point a white ibis out to his little girl, has kept his originality alive even in a life where murder is just an errand to run. 


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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