By this point there have been at least seven videogames to bear the title of Hitman, and I’d be willing to bet that each one is more engaging than the spin-off movies. The 2007 adaptation, which stars Timothy Olyphant as (you guessed it) a hitman, is a passable but entirely forgettable piece of action cinema silliness, but apparently it’s now time for a “reboot.” One assumes it’s because another Hitman video game is scheduled for release later this year, but when an action flick is as basic and generic as Hitman: Agent 47, one also assumes that a traditional advertising campaign may have worked a whole lot better.
Stop me when you’ve heard this one: a super-talented assassin is tasked with killing a beautiful young woman, only he has second thoughts once the truth of his mission becomes clear. Turns out that the woman, the assassin, and a second (much more evil) assassin are actually all linked together by a nefarious organization (called Syndicate International, no less) that monkeys with DNA and turns innocent children into bar-coded, emotionless, killing machines. So then they chase each other from Berlin to Singapore, killing a whole bunch of other assassins in the process.
Still with me? OK, so it’s not the most original of stories — and that’s me being nice — so let’s instead focus on the big selling point of any simple-minded action flick, and that’s the actors. Nah, just kidding. I mean the action sequences. (The lead actors, for the record, are Rupert Friend as Good Assassin, Hannah Ware as The Target, and Zachary Quinto as Bad Assassin. They do passable work with an endlessly tedious screenplay, as do bored-looking supporting actors like Jurgen Prochnow, Thomas Kretschmann, and Ciaran Hinds.)
But back to the action scenes: they’re pretty insane, visually speaking. On their own and unattached to the film’s endlessly familiar plot machinations and dreary dialogue, the action sequences do manage to exhibit a decent amount of style, attitude, and impact — but none of them seem to last all that long, which means we’re quickly re-mired in a bunch of meandering plot blather that feels like it fell out of a 1979 TV movie. There’s a whole lot of lip service paid to “genetic tampering” this and “we gotta find the head scientist” that, but there’s virtually nothing in the way of humor, humanity, or even basic character development. Unstoppable cyber-assassins pounding on each others’ faces? There’s plenty of that stuff.
It’s as if first-time director Aleksander Bach is sure that the intended audience for a “video game movie” has no interest whatsoever in a movie’s plot, except for how a “plot” has to exist in order to string five action sequences together and hit a running time of at least 90 minutes. And that’s not really the best way to adapt anything, let alone a cliché-laden video game with a title like Hitman. Virtually everything on the screen is sleek, shiny, and high-tech, so as to make things look nifty, but since there’s nothing here in the way of actual characters, the end result is a hollow, vacant, and clinical flick that only jolts back to life when the guns start blazing. (It’s interesting to note that the violence is of the “extra nasty” variety, as if gaping bullet holes and ground-up henchmen are really all the audience demands, which is depressing.)
Fans of the Hitman video game franchise will, of course, have to decide for themselves whether or not Hitman: Agent 47 is a faithful enough adaptation to warrant some praise, but speaking as someone who knows nothing about the source material… well, this just isn’t a very good action flick.
2 genetically modified and virtually immortal burritos out of 5