Generic Action Movie 47
Hitman: Agent 47
Watching Hitman: Agent 47 feels like sitting on your friend’s couch, watching him or her play a bro-shooter, kill-em-all video game. The story sucks, the violence is fake-looking, the action is nonsensical, and there’s a general sense of detachment since you aren’t directly partaking in the melee. It’s moderately entertaining for about five minutes, and then you get the sudden, uncontrollable urge to shut the whole thing down and go grab a coffee or something.
The movie’s based on (whaddya know?) the bro-shooter, kill-em-all Hitman video game series and is directed by Aleksander Bach, a first-timer who’s mostly helmed stylish commercials. It stars Homeland‘s Rupert Friend as 47, a suit-wearing, bald-headed assassin who’s been deprogrammed by evil scientists to not feel emotion or empathy, and reprogrammed to be an unstoppable death-bringer. The program that created him was destroyed a long time ago, but now some bad dudes are plotting to revive it, and 47 makes it his mission to stop that from happening. He knows he’s a murdering asshole, and he doesn’t want them to make more murdering assholes. His name comes from the fact that he’s the 47th iteration of the diabolical experiment, and it turns out that to save the world, he has to seek the help of a newer, more deadly model.
There was another movie based on the video game (it starred Timothy Olyphant and was equally vapid and horrible), and Agent 47 makes the same mistake its predecessor did, transplanting the video game’s main character to the screen essentially unchanged. Video game heroes are traditionally blank, personality-less proxies for us to project ourselves onto, which makes them great to take control of when you want to play puppetmaster and raise some hell in a polygonal playland. But they don’t work as movie heroes because they aren’t interesting enough as characters to wrap a story around them. This, mostly, is why video game movies are generally so lousy.
At the center of the story’s super-soldier controversy is Katia (Hanna Ware), the daughter of the mad scientist who started the Hitman program and is now in hiding (Ciaran Hinds). She’s on the run because everyone, including 47, is after her, believing she’s the only one on earth who can lead them to her dad. With 47 in pursuit, she meets a man named John Smith (Zachary Quinto) who claims to be her savior (with a name like that, he’s got to be legit, right?). The movie turns into a really, really cheap Terminator knock-off for a while as Katia and John try to outrun 47, and after that schtick is over with, things devolve into generic super-spy, big-action trash.
Bach’s stuff actually looks decent most of the time: the action is organized and the cinematography is smooth. There’s no artistry to any of it, though; no edginess or innovation to the car chases, the hand-to-hand fights, or even Hitman‘s signature dual-wielding shootouts. It’s standard stuff, and with such a lifeless story backing it up, it all feels plasticky and hollow. Everything feels derivative or flat-out stolen: when 47 is being interrogated in a room full of military personnel, one of the soldiers tries to intimidate him, prompting him to robotically retort, “I’m not locked in here with you—you’re locked in here with me!”
The script isn’t notable on any front, but the actors are admirable in that they mostly try to take their job seriously. Quinto and Hinds make the movie easier to watch when they’re with us, but Ware and Friend aren’t as compelling. The special effects show that closes out the movie is underwhelming, but what hurts is that the ending teases future installments of the series.