Xavier Gens | 94 mins | download | 15
Video games have been fertile ground for filmmakers over the past couple of decades — or, rather, for film financiers, because while they almost invariably garner poor reviews they do insist on making them. What marks Hitman out from the crowd? Well, nothing.
In fact, Hitman seems to be doing its best to blend in and go unnoticed — much like a good hired assassin would do, you’d imagine. Except in this film, all the assassins are bald and have barcodes tattooed on the back of their head — not at all conspicuous. The story begins at the end, as is the fashion for most films these days, and as usual there’s absolutely no reason why it should. After that, you’ve got a series of ideas and scenes recycled from the likes of The Bourne Identity — and by “from the likes of” I really mean “from” — that don’t add up to anything particularly new. The majority of the plot is easily guessed within the first half-hour; those guesses that don’t pan out aren’t because the film has anything surprising to do, but instead because it seemingly can’t be bothered to resolve certain plot threads. Equally, the plentiful leaps in logic appear to be the result of lazy filmmaking, not caring to fill in the gaps between two cliched plot beats.
Characters suffer from poor performances — disappointing in the case of lead Timothy Olyphant, who was pretty good in Deadwood — but are also let down by a lack of technical ability, featuring a copious amount of clearly dubbed dialogue. They shouldn’t’ve bothered, because it’s all atrocious. Behind the dialogue, the rest of the writing isn’t any better. Agent 47’s characterisation is all over the place. He’s clearly supposed to be calm and robotic, and at times he is, with an appropriate lack of understanding about life and women; but then there are moments where he’s shouty, or humourous, or eye-rollingly knowing. It’s like the screenwriter’s copied the scene from another film (usually The Bourne Identity) and forgotten to put his characters into it. As for the rest of the cast, Dougray Scott and current Bond girl Olga Kurylenko are also let down by poor material. Also worthy of note is a Russian General toward the end, who is a spectacularly bad actor.
Believe it or not, Hitman does have the odd moment that’s almost worthwhile. There’s some wit with the sex (or, rather, “lack of sex”) scenes, and I quite liked the (derivative, it must be said) score. And then there’s the action, of course, which is naturally the main point of a film like Hitman. It’s fairly extreme, considering, and appropriately bloody — exploding heads from snipers, many spurting wounds from SMGs, and so on. This is the ‘benefit’ of the unrated cut, which is barely any longer than the theatrical one but does have plenty of extra blood CG’d in. For a full list of differences — as well as that blood, there’s a few extra shots in fights and of ‘controversial things’ like drug-taking — have a look at this page (translated from German). Most of the action scenes are passable but with nothing to mark them out, the one exception being a four-way blade fight in a disused train carriage between Agent 47 and three other bald assassins. It’s a good idea fairly well executed, but suffers from a nagging question: where did the other three come from and, more importantly, why were they there?
I’ve made it this far without mentioning Leon, the gold standard against which all other assassin movies will inevitably be compared. It feels almost cruel to mention it though, because Hitman’s aims are nothing so lofty. Style and content-wise, films such as Wanted and Shoot ‘Em Up are much closer relations, as well as the film it so often imitates, The Bourne Identity. Hitman is not as original nor as fun as any of these, which makes it all rather pointless.