It’s a well established fact that movies don’t have to be technically good for them to be fun. Unfortunately for Hitman: Agent 47, it’s neither. A 96-minute diversion that has all the ingredients on paper for bonkers escapism at its very best, this video game adaptation reboot ends up being a tepid R-rated actioner instead.
Not that there isn’t at least a modicum of effort being made here as Skip Woods’ script does serve up all the basic prerequisites to deliver a ludicrously entertaining and/or memorable flick – adjectives that really don’t apply to the snoozy Timothy Oliphant led first attempt to bring the popular Hitman games to the screen in 2007 – but alas the film just never seems to hit its mark consistently. Ironic for a movie about a guy with unerring aim.
Woods’ script sees Rupert Friend (Homeland) this time donning the trademark black suit as the barcode tattoo marked 47, a genetically engineered super-killer known as an Agent – he’s faster, stronger,
balder more intelligent, but has had feelings of pain, remorse and [dramatic sigh] love programmed out of his genes. Agents like 47 are the product of an abandoned secret bio-engineering project which collapsed when its lead scientist, Dr. Peter Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), went into hiding years ago, taking all his research/knowledge with him and subsequently preventing any more Agents from being made ever since. But since shady corporations have never met a highly advanced piece of science they didn’t want to exploit, the chase is on to find the missing scientist and his lucrative recipe for cooking up Agents. And unwittingly holding the key to his retrieval may be a mysteriously neurotic young woman named Katia Van Dees (Hannah Ware) who has been searching for Litvenko herself for unknown reasons.
47 is tasked by his handlers with eliminating Katia so as to prevent other parties from using her as a means to get the secrets of the Agent program, while the seemingly heroic John Smith (Zachary Quinto) just wants to protect her from the machine-like relentless pursuit of the cold-hearted Agent.
Or at least that’s how director Aleksander Bach wants it to look as he borrows some of the smoke and mirrors plotting from James Cameron’s Terminator 2, but totally forgets to also borrow the subtlety, patience and skill needed to sell the good guy/bad guy “plot twist” which I’m sure you’ve already figured out just from the fact that the title to this movie is Hitman: Agent 47 and not Hitman: John Smith. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if you mistakenly thought that the movie’s title is in fact Hitman: Red Audis Are The Best Cars In the Whole Wide World based on all the flagrant product placement that happens here.
Said crimson German automobiles are indeed at the heart of a number of action sequences staged throughout the film, and while some of them have visually striking ideas – like having cars harpooned in the streets of Singapore – Bach either makes use of some painfully obvious CGI tricks or completely undersells the craziness of the action through boring, uninspired staging. Similarly the film’s hand-to-hand fight choreography, particularly in a pair of deadly dust-ups between 47 and John Smith, is actually pretty good, but you would need to have Agent-like observational skills to see exactly how good, since Bach obscures most of it with sloppy camerawork. What you thus end up with is an “action” movie filled with plenty of loud, explosive setpieces, presented in either most the pedestrian or most incomprehensible manner possible.
And with the “over the top” action being decidedly more “right into the middle” there’s not much else to distract from the lame duck characterization and undercooked performances. Zachary Quinto at least threatens occasionally with some mustache-twirling even if he never starts chomping down on scenery for real like I kept hoping he would, while Hannah Ware also gets to show a bit of range from damsel in distress to action heroine, even if it’s not particularly memorable. Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 though is nothing more than a cue ball glued on a stick, with a barcode and permanently pinched, ratty features drawn on in khoki pen and some toy guns taped to his side.
Hitman: Agent 47‘s few saving graces comes from its willingness to make full use of its R-rating (especially in the very rare occasions they get the action right) and several throwbacks to the actual mechanics of the game that inspired it – irrespective of how silly they may be. So expect to see lots of Agent 47 leading enemies into violent ambushes, and lots of superhumanly fast costume changes every time he takes somebody out and assumes their identity to infiltrate a place.
With the mostly soiled track record of video game adaptations, I went into Hitman: Agent 47 expecting very little: Give me some crazy, widescreen action spectacle and in the process deliver a product better than the painfully bland previous film. But through some disappointing self-sabotage, it fails to deliver on the former goal and its claim to accomplishment of the latter is dubious as well. In short, this is definitely not a hit, man.
Last Updated: September 1, 2015