Hitman: Agent 47 marks the second chance to bring the Hitman videogame franchise to the big screen. The first was back in 2007 when horror director Xavier Gens turned in an entirely pedestrian and easily forgettable Hitman. Eight years later, the nameless assassin is back in a souped-up reboot that as convoluted as it is pointless.
To summarize the plot of Agent 47 is to court madness itself, but centers around a super assassin known only by his serial number- 47, this time played by Homeland’s Rupert Friend. Part of the dissolved ‘Agent Program’, 47 is a genetically engineered killer who works for the International Contracts Agency; he’s faster, smarter, and evidently duller than normal humans. Much of the film plays out as a chase to track down a difter named Katia Katia (Hannah Ware, Shame), who’s father Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds, Munich) pioneered the Agent Program that created 47 before vanishing decades ago. Also out for Katia is John Smith (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek) who works for The Syndicate, a corporation that wants Litvenko to create an army of agents for them. Now, if that sounds a little convoluted and more than a little stupid, that’s because it absolutely is.
It would be easy to blame Agent 47‘s stupidity on its video game origins, and I’m sure many people will, but that’s not really fair. The storylines of video games are becoming increasingly intricate as well as thematically and intellectually more challenging. The only thing challenging about Hitman‘s plotis figuring out what the hell is going on. The train wreck of a plot comes courtesy of Skip Woods, who wrote the original Hitman along with the gems X-Men Origins: Wolverine and A Good Day to Die Hard. Here he shares co-writing credits with Michael Finch, who penned last years’ underwhelming November Man. The script fumbles from one clumsy action cliché to another, taking any semblance of narrative cohesion, or god-forbid character development, and throwing it out the window.
Hitman: Agent 47 is director Aleksander Bach’s debut feature, but its difficult to tell which failings are his and which belong to the screenwriters. The film does exhibit a noticeable lack of style, and nothing about his choices seem to demonstrate either the ability or willingness to elevate the film above the most generic action fare. The same can be said for the film’s actors who never seem sure whether to play it straight or just steer into the spin of stupidity. Rupert Friend’s 47 is about as bland a leading man as is possible, leaning hard on the ‘I’m an emotionless killing machine’ angle. This might have some interesting implications were the film not so determined to portray him as an un-killable murder god. Quinto gives his best crazy eyes as the film’s villain, but it’s difficult to see anyone who utters lines like “We’re not so different, you and I”, as anything but a cardboard cutout of a villain.
There’s little room for character anyway in Agent 47, which is always eager to get to the next generic set piece, including (but not limited to) rooftop shootout, parking garage chase scene, and fight scene lit by pulsing warning lights. Jonathan Eusebio, who choreographed the excellent fights in John Wick retreads some of that material here, but most of it is obscured into oblivion by cinematographer Ottar Gudnason (The Numbers Station), and editor Nicholas De Toth (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) who are evidently of the opinion that the best action scenes are the ones you can never quite see. But maybe the shaky camera and quick cuts are simply there to mask an over reliance on pretty spotty CGI, that makes the film start to look like the video game its based on. These issues ultimately end up cutting deeper, because if a film titled Hitman can’t get its violence right, what good is it?
Verdict: 1 out of 5
Hitman: Agent 47 is a film that’s ultimately for no one. It’s an R rated film that appeals best to 12-year-olds who wouldn’t understand it anyway because of its overly convoluted, and essentially pointless plot. I’ve never actually played any of the Hitman videogames, but I can guarantee that if you’re in the need of some Agent 47 action, they’re the place to look.