Hitman: Agent 47 will stand out as a slick, tastefully violent and well executed action thriller in a world that has not come across the likes of Dredd 3D and John Wick. Unfortunately my universe has been treated to such exceptional action romps so this video game adaptation served as a dire communion of gratuitous violent gun play and sleek advertisements of cars I will never sit in. I envy that world that regards this film as a landmark.
We are reminded from the get this film is based on a video game as if to tell us the oncoming shortcomings are justified or maybe to further lower audience expectations given the track record of video game adaptations. Rupert Friend stars here as the eponymous genetically programmed stone cold hitman without a soul and the script apparently adopts this soulless schematic as this film essentially sways back and forth between exhibitions of violence and exhibitions is expository dialogue with admirable shamelessness. It’s important to note the video game is meticulous and stealth based so the over the top The Punisher style action sequences could be considered puzzling.
There is a story people and thanks to Wikipedia I can lay it out. Lord knows this review doesn’t happen without it. A genetic scientist, Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), has developed a way to engineer DNA which allows him to create assassins with heightened speed, agility, stamina etc. This being a Euro based Luc Besson-esque film and all, the main baddie has to be a Russian (I may be wrong on that) and this shadowy individual, who heads the ominously named Syndicate International, is out for the formula to create his own enhanced assassins and perhaps an army of enhanced assassins. Litvenko’s mysterious daughter, Katia van Drees (Maria Ware), later surfaces as a person of interest for the CIA, 47, and Syndicate Int as she could possibly be the key to finding her father and his research.
Watching the early scenes of ambiguity that cannibalize the Terminator, you get the sense of the direction this film could take in the event of a follow up (it’s doing okay at the box office). I understand 47 is the controlled character in game but we don’t know that he is necessarily a hero or a villain. He’s just the man of principle that closes his contracts and persistence along this line could have proved the winning formula. The attempt to dissect and soften the stone cold killer is a bit of cliché and just doubling down and letting the ruthlessness of 47 shine through could give the central character and this film the sense of dread it tries to parasite of James Cameron’s iconic Sci Fi thriller.
The performances are as good as the material allows and the action, whilst gratuitous and tiring, is laudably visceral and serviceable enough to satisfy action fans but there isn’t much story here. The only semblance of an arc accompanies Ware’s paranoid self-searching character and that thread is a tad vapid. Hitman: Agent 47 is ostensibly euro B movie fare with shrill product placement (that red Audi literally hurt my eyes) but fans of action won’t leave disappointed. I bet the boarding school me of 8 years ago would have loved this film and it’s avalanche of violence but in 2015, it just elicited yawns.