Hit Man, which Linklater and Powell co-wrote, stars the Top Gun: Maverick actor as a New Orleans psychology professor who also works undercover posing as a hit man for the police in sting operations to catch would-be murders. The film, a comic, existential riff on the hit-man genre, was one of the breakout hits of TIFF, which concluded Sunday.
Netflix didn’t announce release plans yet for Hit Man, which also played at the Venice Film Festival. The film, which co-stars Adria Arjona as a wife who wants her husband dead, is loosely based on a true story detailed in a Skip Hollandsworth-written Texas Monthly article from 2001 about faux-hit-man Gary Johnson. In an interview in Toronto, Linklater, the veteran independent filmmaker of “Boyhood” said he and Powell elected to make the film before selling it to a distributor to avoid some of the pitfalls of modern Hollywood.
“It used to be the head of a studio would sit down with you, talk, maybe say, ‘I think you’ve got the movie in you. Let’s do it.’ Now, they don’t even want to hear from you. You’re up against algorithms and marketing in advance,” said Linklater. “So it was kind of great to go: ‘Let’s just make the movie and bet on ourselves.”
That bet has paid off in a fall-festival movie market that’s been disrupted by the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. It’s been speculated that, with pipelines potentially drying up, studios and streamers might be more eager to pick up finished films.
But the Hit Man sale is the largest yet of the season. Netflix, which also distributed Linklater’s previous movie, “Apollo 10 1/2,” earlier acquired Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut, “Woman of the Hour,” following its premiere in Toronto.