Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, Language and some Sexuality/Nudity
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Written by: Skip Woods
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick & James Faulkner
Movies based on video games don’t have a great reputation. That’s because what might work in a game doesn’t exactly work on the big screen where you don’t have the benefit of a controller. However, even though we have yet to see a truly fantastic video game movie, fans of certain properties still manage to get excited for upcoming adaptations. 2007’s HITMAN was no different. Back when it was coming out (I was still in high school and playing video games on a semi-regular basis), I remember being stoked out of my mind to see this movie. So Thanksgiving weekend, I went with a couple of friends to catch a double-feature of HITMAN and THE MIST (the latter being a far superior film). Our feelings on HITMAN were mixed. Years later, having all but forgotten the film and with an upcoming reboot (due out on August 21) on the way, I rewatched this cinematic HITMAN adaptation.
Meet Agent 47. He’s just your average workaholic who dresses nicely and constantly takes business trips to unique locations. However, 47 is slightly different from the average businessman. You see, he was bred from a young age by a mysterious organization to be a killer-for-hire. Said mysterious organization doesn’t exactly have any loyalties and 47 goes where the money pays. However, his latest assignment (the assassination of the Russian President) goes horribly awry. Despite apparently killing his target, it appears that there is something deeper and more mysterious going on. Agent 47 soon finds himself on the run with a damsel-in-distress in tow, while being hunted by an Interpol agent and his fellow assassins. Someone has put out a hit on our titular hitman, but who and for what purpose?
HITMAN was a video game primarily made up of different assassinations that you would complete. These assignments could take you through dangerous foreign countries or into the backyard of a suburbanite. Needless to say that there wasn’t necessarily a ton of story and that paid off in spades as you could just have fun completing dangerous tasks and being the bad guy. This movie attempts to inject a solid plot into the screenplay, one that can carry a film for just over 90 minutes. The end result is a convoluted conspiracy thriller that tries to function with an action movie mindset. That combination doesn’t exactly blend well, because the movie gets so weighed down by its conspiracy plotline that it constantly forgets to indulge the mayhem and bloodshed (part of what made the games so fun).
Though he’s become known for much bigger things since this film (cough, JUSTIFIED, cough), Timothy Olyphant is an okay anti-hero. He’s supposedly playing an emotionless shell of a human being (as one might be…especially if they were trained to be a contract killer from birth), but is more of an action hero as opposed to an intimidating assassin turned reluctant good guy. I can’t fault Olyphant too much for this, seeing as he isn’t exactly given a workable script or memorable dialogue. Dougray Scott is enjoyable as an Interpol agent, but his character proves to be utterly useless with the sole exception of padding out the running time a little more. The only other stand-out face/character of the cast comes in Olga Kurylenko as the damsel-of-distress in tow. It’s a bit odd that she’s essentially playing a Bond girl in a non-Bond film…and then went on to play a Bond girl in QUANTUM OF SOLACE…and then played another Bond girl in the non-Bond NOVEMBER MAN. There’s a bit of typecasting going on in her career, but she fits well into the role and makes the most she can of the overly familiar material.
The quality of the visuals varies from scene to scene. While the beautiful locations are cool to look at, the camera too constantly flirts with shaky-cam, unnecessary flash-cuts, and forced slow motion. There are times and places to implement each of these techniques, but we don’t need to see Agent 47 pulling a pair of guns out of an ice chest in slow motion. Maybe, the shootout afterwards, but not necessarily the act of pulling the concealed weapons out. Much like the video games it’s based on, HITMAN has some graphic violence (blood spraying everywhere and even a few decapitated limbs). However, a movie titled HITMAN should definitely have more than three notable action scenes. The script gets so bogged down with its conspiracy thriller angle that I counted three memorable action scenes in total (two of which are wonderfully executed). My favorite moment has Agent 47 facing off against other hitmen aboard an abandoned subway train. From the trailer alone, it looks as if the upcoming reboot HITMAN: AGENT 47 has fixed the issue of minimal chaos and pandemonium (maybe becoming a little too ridiculous in the process).
HITMAN is far from the worst video game movie that I’ve seen, but it’s a definite let-down from the source material. If you go into HITMAN expecting an action-packed thriller spanning across multiple countries, you’ll be disappointed as the movie doesn’t have more than three action scenes in the space of over 90 minutes. The performances are alright given the cliché-ridden storyline and the over-stylized flare (slow motion, flashes, and shaky-cam) can reach annoying degrees. However, the film looks good for the most part and isn’t necessarily infuriatingly bad. The two stand-out action sequences (not counting a lackluster final showdown) reveal how cool this whole damn film might have been if it had a better screenplay. As a whole, HITMAN is a strictly middle-of-the-road affair.