‘Hit Man’ Movie Ending Explained & Recap: Did Madison Kill Her Husband?

How often do you see a film that doesn’t put a foot wrong? I’m talking about Richard Linklater’s Hit Man here, which is, by far, the most exciting film that I’ve seen in recent times. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there’s not a single dull second in this dark comedy, which is co-produced and co-written by Glenn Powell, who also aces the title role (well, roles, to be fair). Even though it seems like the part is tailor-made for a certain Ryan Gosling, Powell makes it his own and hits it out of the park. What further helps is his stunning chemistry with Adria Arjona, who plays Madison. While the story, which is loosely based on the life of fake hitman Gary Johnson, is not particularly hard to follow, Linklater puts a philosophical spin on it, which only enhances the whole thing. The director’s signature style of deftly written, fascinating conversation scenes is very much visible here, but not of the Before Trilogy kind. Linklater’s latest work is more along the lines of Bernie (2011), A Scanner Darkly (2008), and Waking Life (2001), if you know what I mean.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens in the Movie?

Philosophy professor Gary Johnson is mostly content with his simplistic life: teaching classes, feeding birds, and being alone at home with two cats. The only exciting thing in his life is his side hustle, where he works as tech support for the New Orleans police. But the professor’s life turns upside down when the police upgrade him to an undercover fake hitman with the job of nailing down potential murderers. This only happened because the cop, Jasper, who was actually doing the job, got himself into an extremely sensitive controversy by beating up teenagers—yeah, one look at him, and you know there’s something of about the guy! Anyway, mild-mannered Gary is startled at first at this sudden outcome, but then he takes all of about five minutes to get a confession out of his first client, Craig. I should also mention that this is the scene where I became a fan of Glen Powell’s acting talent (y’all would agree, right?).


It turns out that Gary is a natural at the job. His conviction rate is higher than Jasper’s, and his colleagues, Claudette (Retta is as usual fantastic; my only qualm with this film is probably it not giving her a little more screentime) and Phil (nice to see an Indian face), are pretty much in love with him. Gary also happens to love his new job, where he gets to play these different people (or should I say hitmen instead?) adapting to the nature of his clients. The film takes its sweet time to establish Gary as this man who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but at the same time, he’s also very convincing as many kinds of cool hitman. A conversation with his ex-wife and (more or less) best friend Alisha also helps us to know more about Gary. He’s inherently a good person who has no trouble admitting that he can’t have a normal relationship (clearly the reason the marriage ended) and is better off being a loner. Alisha suggests Gary see both a woman and a therapist.

Who is Madison, and what’s her trouble?

How lucky is Madison, who appoints Gary out of all the hitmen in the world to off her husband, Ray? If it were a real hitman, Madison would have probably ended up behind bars, but Gary tries to talk her out of it. That’s a clear protocol break, but he can’t help it. In Gary’s defense, Madison is really cute, and more importantly, the two sort of hit it off. Gary is very much smitten with her, and it’s quite evident that she’s charmed by him as well. For her, though, it’s not Gary, but suave hitman Ron. Gary doesn’t have much trouble convincing Claudette and Phil that it is right to give Madison another chance. However, Jasper, who’s now back in the fold but has to stay on the sidelines thanks to Gary doing an impeccable job, is not on board with the idea. In fact, he blames Gary for being unprofessional and not luring Madison into giving an arrest-worthy confession. Hit Man also happens to have a few scenes where Gary is summoned to the court as a witness, and the (alleged) criminal’s lawyers are questioning his methodology. While Gary is conflicted by these questions, Ron seems to be hella confident in answering them.


Do Gary/Ron and Madison get into a relationship?

From the moment Madison walked into the Please U cafe, it was evident that something was going to happen between her and Gary. But did you expect a full-blown romance that is also very erotic? Probably not, but that’s what Linklater gives you, and there’s no reason to complain. There’s a scene where Gary is teaching his class, and he goes on to talk about how we run after pleasure even after knowing that it might complicate our lives. We know what he means here, of course. Powell and Arjona also make a very hot couple, which makes the whole thing very believable despite being irrationally crazy. Madison is clearly out there for some of that genuine thrill in life that she couldn’t have, thanks to her abusive husband, while Gary has always been looking for someone who’s not quite normal. The two are drawn to each other like magnets and expect to reach a point where they can’t take their hands off each other. Sadly, there are way too many complications. Madison is a former client, so Gary’s colleagues can never know what he’s doing in his personal life. And then there’s the fact that she’s into Ron, a cool and confident hitman, instead of socially awkward simpleton professor Gary.

Does Madison kill her husband? 

Hit Man continues to keep its audience in tension, which is something that I really enjoyed! As it was bound to happen one day, Gary and Madison ran into her husband Ray outside of a club. And Ray doesn’t waste a minute making us realize why Madison wanted to wipe him off the face of the earth. In one of the most satisfying scenes, Gary (in full Ron mode) takes out his gun and sticks it on Ray’s face. This makes Madison fall for Ron even more. However, Gary becomes a little skeptical about Ray still calling Madison “his wife” despite the divorce. Madison assures him that the divorce has really happened (at this point, it’s not hard to realize it’s a lie). On the same night, they also happen to come across Jasper. One look at Madison and Jasper knows something’s going on, but for the time being, Gary coolly handles the situation and does his best to throw the cop off his tail. 


Just when you wish for things to get normal because you’ve started to root for Gary and Madison, things get way more chaotic. Gary has a new client, Mark, and this Mark is none other than Madison’s husband, Ray. What does the man want? To teach his wife a “lesson,” what else? The tension-filled conversation scene between Gary and Ray, where they’re sitting at a diner with their backs facing each other, is masterfully crafted. Ray not only wants the hitman to kill Madison, but he also doesn’t mind throwing some extra money in for the “boyfriend.” I thought Gary might walk away from the situation without showing his face, but Ray probably got on his nerves, so he finally revealed himself as Ron, aka “the boyfriend.” Ray is stunned and clearly in no mood to do the deal anymore. Instead, he leaves while threatening to take care of the matter on his own. 

Spooked by what the deranged husband has said, Gary warns Madison about staying safe. But she seems to be unbothered, as she is under the impression that Ray is not capable of murder. She has a point here—why else would he try to hire a hitman? Anyway, while Ray might not have what it takes, Madison appears to have it after all. The sudden news of Ray’s death shocks everyone—Gary, his colleagues, Jasper, but not Madison. She tells Gary that she’s processing but soon ends up confessing that it’s she who killed the husband. Gary majorly freaks out, as he didn’t see this coming at all, but Madison doesn’t understand why it’s a big deal considering what Ron does. But Ron isn’t the real deal and hasn’t ever killed anyone, a truth that Gary finally blurts out. Albeit hysterically, he finally comes clean about everything. Madison is understandably devastated after knowing the truth, and she closes the door in Gary’s face. Upon returning to the station, Gary finds out from his colleague that Madison is now the prime suspect in the case, all thanks to an insurance policy from Ray, which is now going to make her super rich. 


Why does Gary help Madison get away?

Would it be an exaggeration if I said Hit Man takes an anti-moralistic stance and it works in its favor? Because this story never seemed like one where the lovers would walk off into the sunset—but that’s exactly what Linklater has in store for you. Think about it: Gary had all the opportunities in the world to come clean to the police and put Madison behind bars. In fact, he had no trouble nailing people who would eventually murder him, but when it came to Madison, who actually did it, Gary chose not to do it. “Things you do for love” can be the very right explanation here, but you also need to consider that Madison also loves him in a way nobody ever would. And it was only a matter of time till she would come on board with Gary pulling off a “Ron” on her. Gary or Ron, this is the guy she loves, and feelings can never be real. It’s interesting how Gary also strives to become Ron, not only for the sake of Madison but also because he always wanted to become a whole different person. In fact, when he is talking to his ex-wife early on in the movie, he gets very excited when Alisha starts talking about how a human being can change their entire personality, even as an adult. He’s also elated upon knowing that his beloved students wouldn’t mind eliminating a problem (we’re referring to Ray here, for context) in a lawless situation. Ray was not doing anything good by staying alive anyway, so what’s wrong with Madison taking care of her problem (and making her life better)? This is the line in Gary’s chain of thought, I’m quite certain.

But the world we see in Hit Man is bound by law. So Gary has no choice but to go along with the police’s plan of wearing a wire as Ron once again and getting the confession out of Madison. It’s no surprise that Jasper is the one who has come up with the idea—not a bad one, I would say, but Gary’s clearly a step ahead. So he does exactly what the police ask him to—going to Madison’s house and trying every trick in Ron’s book to make her say the magic words. Except he also lets Madison know what’s really going on, and she’s smart enough to catch on and deceive the police. Not Jasper, though, who figures out what the deal is and comes to blackmail our fake hitman-femme fatale duo. But “Hit Man” is a movie where people like Jasper and Ray can never win—not that they ever should. Jasper could have just gone to the police, but he made the choice of blackmailing Gary and Madison for a fat share of that insurance money. This made him a real problem that needed to be eliminated! And by now, we know for a fact that Gary wouldn’t care if Madison killed thousands of men like Jasper and Ray. 


I don’t think she did, though. Hit Man ends with Gary and Madison living the American dream—living in a cool house—with two cute kids who conveniently ask how mommy and daddy met. And Gary actually has an answer ready. He has managed to find a balance between Ron and Gary, which I’m sure Madison digs. I bet his students still find him hot, and his colleagues ogle over him! 

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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