Should I Watch..? 'Hitman' (2007)
What's the big deal?
Hitman is an action thriller film released in 2007 and is based on the successful video game series of the same name. The film features Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott and Olga Kurylenko and focuses on the character known as Agent 47, a man raised from birth to become a professional killer who becomes caught up in a political conspiracy. Directed by Frenchman Xavier Gens, the film was a financial hit when it was released despite negative reviews at the time. These reviews led to a possible sequel being cancelled during production although a reboot, Hitman: Agent 47, was released in 2015. This too also received negative reviews.
What's it about?
Agent 47 is one of a number of young boys born and raised at an unknown location, trained by a group called The Organization to become a fully trained, professional killer. Shorn of hair and tattooed with a bar code on the back of his head, 47 eventually becomes a mercenary who is hired to assassinate in public the Russian President, Mikhail Belicoff. Shooting Belicoff between the eyes while he's giving a speech, 47 is then told to eliminate a possible witness - Belicoff's mistress Nika.
However, 47 quickly discovers that this is a ruse designed to show off his location to the Russian security forces. Realising he's been framed, 47 spares Nika's life and goes on the run with her pursued by the FSB as well as Interpol agent Mike Whittier who has been tailing 47 for years. Can they unlock the truth behind what's going on and will Agent 47 live long enough to put all the conspirators into a bodybag?
What's to like?
It might be fairly low budget but Hitman is one film that delivers when it comes to the action. Fuelled by improbably physics and lashings of CG gore, the film delivers exactly the kind of chaos you'd expect from a video game adaptation. It's exciting and well paced as well as having the presence of mind to recollect images from the games that hardcore fans might recognise.
Olyphant's role is an interesting one and the film's script requires much concentration if you're hoping to follow it. It does get a big tangled up in its own web but the film, like the lead role, can always seem to blast itself out of trouble. Kurylenko is absolutely electric as Nika, looking fabulous and being every inch the femme fatale that every action hero needs. Unlike other video-game adaptations like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat or DOA: Dead Or Alive, the film isn't content to simply present characters who look like their digital counterparts and you can see what they were trying to do here. A pity, then, that it doesn't really work.
- Vin Diesel was originally lined up to play the part of 47 but Diesel was content being an executive producer. Jason Statham was then offered the role but declined.
- Dougray Scott's character often pulls out a cigarette to smoke but at no point do we ever see him light one.
- Director Gens was asked by the studio to make the movie a PG13 but he refused. However, once filming was complete, Gens was removed from the directors chair and replaced with Nicolas De Toth and Fox were then able to reshoot some scenes and edit the movie to their satisfaction.
What's not to like?
Hitman should have been a tense thriller if it was going to be anything like the games, which use stealth and disguise as 47's primary weapons. Here, he's basically indestructible and noisily goes about his business with all the subtlety and poise of a brick being thrown into your face. It doesn't help that Olyphant is completely devoid of any personality or charm whatsoever, reducing the slap-headed super shooter to a one-dimensional stereotype. Even worse, the script makes little sense at all and the inept direction makes the movie almost incomprehensible at times. Take the scene where 47 is targeted by other members of the Organization, surrounding him with other bald men dressed the same way. How on earth are you supposed to follow the fight when all the guys involved look identical?
Apart from Kurylenko, the supporting cast don't give a particularly good account of themselves either. Scott is wasted as the Interpol agent who only ever shows up after the story has moved on. And in truth, are we supposed to be rooting for him or not - after all, Agent 47 is an assassin that we are supposed to be able to get behind, right? Is that correct? What sort of message does that send to teenagers who are presumably the target audience for a movie of this sort? Why is 47 a good guy because on paper, he doesn't seem that much of a hero to me?
Should I watch it?
It's not a catastrophic failure but Hitman does nothing to break the curse of botched video-game adaptations. It does an OK job of being a perfectly generic, if somewhat confusing, action thriller but does nothing to appeal to fans of the game or better action movies like The Matrix. I didn't have high hopes for this but even they were dashed. Action fans might get something from it but the rest of you should probably stay away.
Great For: action fans, Kurylenko's admirers
Not So Great For: fans of the games, action cinema in general, video-game adaptations
What else should I watch?
Looking at Wikipedia's list of movies based on video games, the highest rated effort so far (at time of writing) is Mortal Kombat which I found to be a silly and sometimes laughable excuse for a punch-up with dodgy effects and terrible acting. Sadly, the rest aren't much cop either - the highest grossing entry on the list - Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time - still received fairly mixed reviews when it came out while even Angelina Jolie can't save the two Tomb Raider movies from tanking either.
There are no shortage of action movies out there which proves that the likes of Hitman really do need to up their game. From classics like Die Hard and Commando to more modern efforts like The Matrix and Crank, action movies can be as refined or as brutal as you wish. But the wait for a decent video-game adaptation goes on...
President Mikhail Belicoff
Release Date (UK)
30th November, 2007
© 2015 Benjamin Cox