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Netflix's Hit Man has a dark but satisfying ending. Here's how it compares to Gary Johnson's real-life story.

Ayomikun Adekaiyero   

Netflix's Hit Man has a dark but satisfying ending. Here's how it compares to Gary Johnson's real-life story.
  • Netflix's latest movie, "Hit Man," tells the story of a fake undercover hitman in New Orleans.
  • The film is loosely based on Gary Johnson, a former phony hitman living in Houston.

Netflix's "Hit Man" is based on the true story of former fake hitman Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) — but the ending is different from reality.

The new film follows Gary, who spends his mornings teaching philosophy at a university in New Orleans and the rest of his time helping the New Orleans Police Department conduct sting operations on people who want to hire a hitman.

When Jasper (Austin Amelio), a crooked cop, is pulled out of the sting operation, Gary takes over as the fake hitman. Gary excels, and the police ask him to become their phony hitman permanently.

In 2001, Texas Monthly staff writer Skip Hollandsworth wrote a feature article about Gary Johnson, his double life, and his success as a fake hitman.

Screenwriters have been trying to turn the story into a movie since 2001, but none have succeeded until now.

"Hit Man" director Richard Linklater and Powell cowrote the story, focusing on Gary's relationship with a woman he tries to capture in a sting operation.

Linklater told Texas Monthly in May that the producers spent $10 or 11 million (he doesn't know for sure) to produce the movie independently. Last year, Netflix bought "Hit Man" for $20 million to stream on their platform.

Here's what to know about the ending and how it differs from the true story.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for "Hit Man."

In 'Hit Man,' Gary and Madison get away with killing two people and raise a family together

In the middle of the film, Gary, using the undercover name Ron, meets Madison, a scared young woman who wants to murder her husband to escape their abusive relationship.

Gary, who is attracted to Madison and empathizes with her, persuades her to divorce her husband and run away. A couple of weeks later, Madison and Gary, still pretending to be Ron, meet again and begin dating.

While they are hanging out, Gary accidentally teaches Madison how to kill her husband and get away with it. Gary then discovers that the husband is trying to kill Madison and tells her. Madison kills the husband and uses Gary's advice to hide the body in a poor neighborhood.

Gary learns of the murder and reveals his real identity to Madison, causing a big fight. However, they are forced to overcome their hurt feelings so they can work together to stop the police from discovering the truth.

They fool everyone but Jasper, who has been following Gary and Madison for weeks. Jasper attempts to blackmail them, but Madison spikes his drink, and Gary suffocates him after he is passed out.

The next scene flashes forward to a time years later when Gary and Madison are married and raising two children.

The real Gary Johnson didn't murder anyone or marry Madison

Though "Hit Man" recreates many moments from the Texas Monthly story, the second half of the movie is mostly untrue.

Madison was created for the movie, and though the real Johnson did marry and get divorced three times, there aren't any reports on whether he had children.

Madison appears to be loosely based on a section of the Texas Monthly article where Johnson refers a young woman to social services and a therapist instead of getting her arrested.

Hollandsworth wrote that the woman wanted to hire a hit man because her boyfriend was abusing her.

"Before Johnson contacted her, he did some research into her case," Hollandsworth wrote. "He learned that she really was the victim of abuse, regularly battered by her boyfriend, too terrified to leave him because of her fear of what he might do if he found her."

Powell said in the press notes for "Hit Man" that this moment helped him and Linklater figure out how to tell Johnson's story.

"He looked at this person and thought, 'This is a victim of their circumstances, and I want to help them through this thing,'" Powell said. "A guy who imitated humanity was in turn finding his own humanity. That relationship turned out to be key to the entire movie."

Per a report published by UPI on Tuesday, Linklater told a "Hit Man" press conference that Powell was the first to suggest that they should "deviate" from the truth story.

"Glen kind of loosened the log jam I was in," Linklater said. "Once that floodgate opened, we were off to the races. We just started having these great ideas."

Powell said Gary is a hybrid of his two personas at the end of the movie

A major theme in "Hit Man" is identity and whether it is possible for someone to change.

This is important particularly to Gary, as he becomes more like Ron the longer he dates Madison.

In May, Powell told Today that Gary becomes a "hybrid" of both personalities at the end.

"It's not too late to seize the identity that you want for yourself and chase what makes you happiest," Powell said of the movie's message. "If you feel like you're stuck in life, if you feel like you're stuck in an identity that's not making you happy, just make the choice to change."


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