How 'Hit Man' Turns a Wild True Story Into a Blockbuster Rom-Com By Its Shocking Conclusion

The Netflix film starring Glen Powell is inspired by the true-story of Gary Johnson, who worked for the police as a fake hitman.

adria arjona and glen powell in hit man
(Image credit: Netflix)

Early in Richard Linklater’s crime-comedy Hit Man, Glen Powell’s character Gary Johnson reiterates that the concept of a hitman is a fantasy. He says that pop culture has led those with questionable ethics to believe that, if they call the right number or walk down a seedy alley, they could meet a mysterious figure who can get their enemies “taken care of.”

While some true crime cases may say otherwise, by the end of Hit Man, the film itself (which hit streaming on Netflix on June 7) fully leans into movie magic. After taking inspiration from the real-life story of a man who worked undercover for the Houston police by posing as a professional killer, Hit Man gives his story a Hollywood rom-com update when he falls for one of his “clients,” a woman named Madison (Adria Arjona) in fear of her abusive husband (Evan Holtzman). By the ending, Linklater and Powell offer a melodramatic, classic rom-com conclusion, and a thoughtful statement on identity.

Because multiple premeditated murders are prevented and one impulsive shooting plays out, leading to another shocking death, we’re breaking down the ending of Netflix’s latest hit Hit Man.

glen powell as college professor gary in hit man

Glen Powell as Gary in Hit Man.

(Image credit: Matt Lankes/Netflix)

What happens at the end of 'Hit Man?'

When Linklater introduces Gary, he’s lamenting about Nietzsche in front of his university-level psychology class and going home to his cats, Ego and Id. Immediately, the filmmaker presents a story about identity and whether or not people can change. That becomes a question even more on Gary’s mind when his part-time gig helping the police department with sting operations sees him as their new go-to for posing as a hitman-for-hire to catch potential murderers. Once he realizes that he’s rather good at improvising and studying his clients so he can become believable as the assassin they want him to be, he realizes there’s a malleable part of himself, and he has fun with it. Depending on the day, a brooding mobster, a British psychopath in a blunt red bob, an underground Russian criminal, and Ron, a suave man of mystery.

He inhabits Ron off-duty, as well. He first transforms into the bad boy stud when he’s hired by Madison, who he ultimately convinces to leave her abusive, controlling husband Ray, rather than have him killed. Talking to Madison at a diner over pie, it becomes somewhat of a date because—as Ron—he can pull off a cool jacket and successfully charm a woman. After Madison finds her own place and files for divorce, she reaches out to Ron to thank him. The two reconnect and begin dating—with Gary fully committing to pretending to be Ron, and setting confines to their relationship that they can only see each other at Madison’s, given his dangerous line of work.

ron and madison on a date in hit man

Gary (Glen Powell) as he pretends to be Ron going to a night club with Madison (Adria Arjona) in Hit Man.

(Image credit: Brian Roedel/Netflix)

As Madison and Ron become more serious, they take their relationship to the next step by going on a real date. Madison, meanwhile, seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis of her own—free from her manipulative husband and beguiled by the intrigue of dating a man with multiple murders under his belt. So when they go dancing and run into Madison’s ex-husband Ray at the club, she pulls a gun on him when he follows the pair outside, and says that her new boyfriend could kill him. Gary is rattled by the altercation, especially since the lines between what is true and false about his identity seem to be starting to blur in the real world.

Making matters more complicated, when they go for ice cream after the club, Jasper (Austin Amelio), Gary’s bad cop colleague from the police department, sees them together. Jasper recognizes Madison but isn’t sure from where, and later realizes who she is while speaking to Gary. Gary insists that the two were both there by coincidence to avoid revealing that he’s been seeing Madison as Ron.

Gary soon realizes Madison is in danger when her ex attempts to hire him. When he goes to the sting operation, he gets a good look at Ray, realizes who he is, and makes sure he doesn't recall their recent run-in with Madison. Their interaction is uncomfortable and Ray threatens to take matters into his own hands, storming out of the diner, leading Gary to tell Madison that he’s heard Ray wants to put out a hit on her.

madison and gary sharing ice cream in hi man

Madison (Adria Arjona) and Gary as he pretends to be Ron (Glen Powell) sharing ice cream on a date in Hit Man.

(Image credit: Brian Roedel/Netflix)

Shortly after, Ray winds up dead by gunshot, and Gary knows instantly that Madison killed him—although the police suspect it was a drug deal gone wrong. Gary goes along with the investigation but becomes nervous Jasper may be onto something, and confronts Madison.

As he goes over to her house to confirm that she shot and killed her ex-husband, he increasingly becomes enraged, and admits to Madison, “I’m a fake hitman,” when she asks why he’s so stressed out if he kills people this all the time. She’s disturbed by the fact that she’s been lied to, and he’s overwhelmed by how deeply he found himself embracing his Ron persona.

Gary then discovers that the police think Madison is the culprit because of his $1 million life insurance policy that would go to her since they weren’t technically divorced. Jasper notes that he knows Madison reconnected with Ron and she trusts him, so the officers suggest he reach out to her and they bug him to see if she’ll confess.

During the sting, he decides to protect Madison by holding up a message on his phone tipping her off that he’s bugged, and guiding her on what to say. The police buy it. It’s a delight to watch their back and forth—and a thrill for the couple as they lean into their newfound dangerous sides.

Austin Amelio as jasper in hit man

Jasper (Austin Amelio) relaying his scheme in Hit Man.

(Image credit: Brian Roedel/Netflix)

Do Gary and Madison kill Jasper and get away with murder in 'Hit Man?'

Just when Gary and Madison think they’ve closed the case on her ex-husband’s murder, Jasper trusts his instinct that the two have been in cahoots and threatens to blackmail them. He goes over to Madison’s house, gets her to lead her beau there, and explains that he wants the pay out from the life insurance. As it turns out, Madison put drugs in his beer, leading him to overdose and pass out.

While the two are discussing what steps to take, Gary phones in Ron once more, suggesting that they kill Jasper by suffocation. He says they can make it look like he died by suicide by placing him in his car where he’ll be found with drugs in his system, and he reasons that no one will think otherwise, since he was recently divorced and a dirty cop who won’t be missed. Madison agrees and they do in fact kill him—meaning Gary has now killed somebody. Although, the two say “I do” to keeping their mouths shut and sticking together “for better or worse,” committing to a love-on-the-run life together and fully stepping into their Bonnie and Clyde-like personas.

With that, Hit Man makes a case that you can change—as Gary’s found what he calls “the proper cocktail” of himself and Ron, the more adventurous, charming person he wanted to be. Madison brought that out of him, and he brought out a strength in her. The film even returns to his classroom, where he tells his students, “Seize the identity that you want for yourself,” which is what he learned is possible and a far cry from his lecture about how set the universe is for individuals earlier in the semester.

madison and gary in hit man

Madison (Adria Arjona) and Gary as Ron (Glen Powell) embracing in a romantic moment in Hit Man.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Do Gary and Madison end up together in 'Hit Man?'

The final scene reveals that Gary and Madison really did say “I do” to their ride-or-die relationship. Hit Man concludes with shots of Madison and Gary picking up their two young children from school and enjoying a meal at their home together. Their daughter asks where the two met, and there’s a twinkle in their eyes as they explain it was at a diner over pie (which technically isn’t wrong!).

It’s a sweet finale to story that increasingly takes blockbuster-like turns and inevitably arrives at a cheeky rom-com, happily-ever-after moment to cap it off. Just as Gary says the concept of the hit man is a fantasy, Hit Man takes a true stranger-than-fiction premise to ultimately become a Hollywood fantasy—but it’s an ending that’s sweet as pie.

Sadie Bell
Senior Culture Editor

Sadie Bell is the Senior Culture Editor at Marie Claire, where she edits, writes, and helps to ideate stories across movies, TV, books, and music, from interviews with talent to pop culture features and trend stories. She has a passion for uplifting rising stars, and a special interest in cult-classic movies, emerging arts scenes, and music. She has over eight years of experience covering pop culture and her byline has appeared in Billboard, Interview Magazine, NYLON, PEOPLE, Rolling Stone, Thrillist and other outlets.